Tug and lifeboat – working in harmony

KNRM lifeboat 'Kitty Roosmale Nepveu' on its berth at Scheveningen (Peter Barker) KNRM lifeboat 'Kitty Roosmale Nepveu' on its berth at Scheveningen (Peter Barker)

Tugs and lifeboats carry out similar work in emergency situations and an incident off the Dutch coast recently demonstrates that charitable services provided by lifeboats can play a useful role assisting the commercial towage sector.

The small tug Hans was 11 miles off the Dutch coast at Scheveningen and towing a 40m long pontoon when it encountered steering problems around midnight in adverse weather conditions. The towline had to be released with the unladen barge drifting in a northerly direction influenced by wind and current.

The Netherlands Coastguard was informed of the situation and the KNRM lifeboat station at Scheveningen alerted. The ‘Arie Visser’ class lifeboat Kitty Roosmale Nepveu was tasked to assist while the nearby offshore support vessel VOS Star was asked to monitor the Hans and the barge on radar.

When the lifeboat arrived, the coastguard requested it to follow the drifting barge and with the crew of the tug soon able to re-establish use of its steering gear it also headed for the barge to re-connect the tow. The crew on board Hans undertook several attempts to establish a towing connection again but were hampered by adverse weather conditions including force six winds and two metre waves.

With Hans encountering difficulties making the connection, the lifeboat was asked to assist and in a typical example of seamanship skill and innovation was able to transfer a towline which again after several attempts was secured to the barge. The line was then connected to a buoy which the crew on Hans were able to retrieve and attach to the steel towing wire on its winch. Just over two hours after the lifeboat was alerted tug and barge were once again connected and the situation brought under control.

Tug and tow set course towards Hoek van Holland and at the request of the coastguard was escorted by the Scheveningen lifeboat. Around two hours later and after an uneventful passage a Rotterdam pilot was able to board the Hans in the port’s approaches and with the duty of escorting the convoy taken over by the Port of Rotterdam Authority patrol boat RPA 15, Kitty Roosmale Nepveu was released and returned to Scheveningen arriving back home five hours after initially setting out.

By Peter Barker

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