Posted by: towmasters | May 3, 2011

Behold: The Can-Opener!

Does this look like any way to run an airline to you?

I didn’t think so.

I call this the “can-opener” style of caisson pad. It doesn’t look good for resting a barges hull against, and you certainly wouldn’t want to hit it from the side while sliding into the berth. It can be found on the second caisson or cell in at an active and busy petroleum dock/pier complex in New York Harbor that features a one-way-in, one-way-out approach, so it is unavoidable. On a double-hulled barge this at least a holed hull if you hit it, and a holed hull plus a spill if you hit it hard enough. On one of the elderly remaining single-hulled barges it is almost certainly a hole plus a spill at just about any speed. The first caisson on the approach is identical to this one, except there is no pad or stanchions, and no fendering of any kind on the caisson. That’s bad, but under the circumstances it’s better than this one. At least you’d hit something relatively blunt and you might avoid the spill.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. The steering can go out, you can lose one or both engines, suck a line or old tire into a wheel, the assist tug could become disabled, etc. Or you could just be human and not have a great day at the wheel. Variables happen. But this isn’t an unknowable variable that couldn’t be anticipated. This is bad design and lack of upkeep. You would think that this must be unacceptable to someone: the Coast Guard, ABS, oil company safety vetters, the insurance underwriters, someone! And while this might be one of the more extreme examples it surely isn’t the only one, and there are many others that are not as bad but still a hazard. Shouldn’t all terminals have to meet decent minimum standards too? This is not good risk management.



  1. Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t! You can’t refuse to go into that terminal or you will loose your job, yet when you touch up against the razor blades and have a spill its no ones fault but yours.

  2. Until it costs THEM money there will be no changes. Gordon’s inside is a wonderful example of that.

  3. I think the terminal should be named for those who don’t know about it or haven’t yet met with this obvious hazard.

  4. Good post. My guess is that this should be reported to the USCG Captain of the Port. My perception however is that the Coast Guard is currently taking a laissez-faire approach to regulation, preferring to wait for an incident then swarming upon the hapless mariner with drug testing paraphernalia

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