The Coast Guard has issued another marine safety alert, #12-08, concerning Watertight Doors. Please read it along with the two companion alerts, Securing of Watertight Doors While Underway (#3-08) and Maintaining Vessel Watertight Integrity (#1-08). As anyone should be able to see, there’s a trend here so you might want to consider being more diligent about this. Watertight doors being kept closed and properly dogged down on tugs tends to be the exception rather than the rule. Regular maintenance? Often not so hot.
But a variety of vessels keep going down both regularly and unnecessarily because of it. Besides improperly maintained doors and hatches that leak being a consistent problem, there’s the inconvenience/lazy factor that plays a part. Many people simply can’t be bothered with closing and dogging doors. I’m not very sympathetic about this, however I must point out that if quick-acting watertight doors (QAWTD’s) were used on tugs and towboats then I think that at least that part of the problem would mostly disappear, although maintenance could still be a problem. QAWTD’s, particularly the Navy Standard, have been around a long time and are “original factory equipment” aboard military vessels, as well as many ships. There’s a good reason for this: their durability and effectiveness are proven. They’re opened and closed by either a wheel or a long handle that engages or disengages all of the dogs simultaneously, thereby making the opening and closing process fast and simple, which should encourage mariners to close the doors and keep them that way except when passing through them. Here are some other examples of them, as well as hatches.
Anyway, quick-acting or not, just close the damned doors when you’re underway. Your chances of going home at the end of your hitch will have measurably improved. Don’t believe it can happen? Ask the survivors of the Bay Titan about it, they lost a man. The Flying Phantom lost three. The tug Swift lost four. The list goes on and on.
On a related note: the MTVA will be strongly encouraging the use of this old “innovation” as one small part of our detailed package of recommendations for the Coast Guard’s upcoming and long-awaited Towing Vessel Inspection Program. Expect to see the initial Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the public announcement that officially starts the regulatory process, published in the Federal Register sometime this spring. We’re now taking suggestions for things to include in our formal recommendation package from both MTVA members and non-members alike, so don’t be shy. You can email them to us at email@example.com