How is the decision made for a tugboat to ‘push’ or ‘pull’?

Question

How is the decision made for a tugboat to ‘push’ or ‘pull’?

Answer

Unlike powered ships, barges have no engines and depend entirely on tugs to move them.

Tugs exiting the East River toward Long Island Sound would typically be towing the barges astern, paying out tow wire to stabilize the maneuverability of the tow, Lenis Rodrigues, a spokeswoman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, tugs bringing container barges into the East River from the sound “would be shortening up the towline, or even rearranging the configuration by either pushing the barge from astern or alongside ‘on the hip’ to maneuver through the port’s channels,” she said. That tug arrangement, she added, is typical, but has to do with the current, which is generally very strong in the East River. Actual tug arrangement will vary depending on the tide and other meteorological conditions.

J. H. Olthuis, executive director of the Sandy Hook Pilots Association, provided additional information: “In very restricted waters, where there is insufficient room to tow a barge by a long wire, a tug will physically connect to the stern of the barge and push it. Once in open waters the tug will shift to a position ahead of the barge and tow it by wire. In this configuration the tug and barge are better able to withstand the conditions in open water and can usually make better speed. When barges transit the East River they will sometimes also take an assist tug to help maintain control, especially when transiting through Hell Gate.

“Depending on weather and tidal conditions, the area around the Throgs Neck Bridge is a place where the transition from pushing to towing can occur, as tugs want to make this transition in somewhat sheltered waters. Hence, your reader may observe several different configurations with or without a helper tug.”

Powered container ships enter and leave the port through the Ambrose Channel and the narrows to gain access to the container ports in Newark, Bayonne and Elizabeth, N.J., Brooklyn and Staten Island. Farther into the port, these ships, some of which are more than 1,100 feet long, are escorted by tugs, which can pull or push to help them maneuver to their berths. They are moved under the direction of a Sandy Hook pilot, sometimes called a docking master or harbor pilot, who works for the tugboat company. The ships pick up and drop their pilots about 12 miles out to sea, Ms. Rodrigues said.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/nyregion/what-happened-to-the-big-armchairs-in-grand-central-terminal.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Ffyi-new-york-city&_r=0

Why did this come up

Boats passing on the Hudson

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