The Tug and Tow Relationship in the United States

Tugs and barges are the cheapest vessels of American commerce, traveling through the rivers and canals of the nation on a constant basis. This industry, which delivers goods throughout the American continent, is governed by a myriad of statutory and regulatory controls, contract principles, and legally imposed duties and standards of care. This Article explores all of these aspects of the tug and tow relationship. In particular, the Article briefly catalogues the relevant federal regulations which govern tugs and barges. Next, the various contractual agreements between tugs and barges are explored. The Article then turns to the duties and the standard of care imposed on tugs, including the warranty of seaworthiness (which is imposed on tugs and barges) and argues that there is no warranty of workmanlike service in a towage contract. The Article concludes with a discussion of apportionment of fault in cases involving tugs and tows.