Advanced Tow Protection – a collaboration between the insurance industry and TowPro to reduce the risks and losses of towed tenders
Recent trends in tender losses and claims have forced leading insurers to increase tow restrictions and deductibles for superyachts and their captains.
From the yacht’s perspective, in addition to the financial cost, tender losses severely impact the operations of the yacht and the entertainment of guests. Valuable time is lost either chartering a replacement or ordering a new tender.
A year-long collaboration on tender tow protection between insurers and TowPro working in consultation with captains, found that:
- existing tow warranties requiring installation of a tracker on the tender are inadequate for risk reduction, and warranties which require an operational AIS actually cause captains to infringe SOLAS regulations
- captains would welcome an Advanced Tow Protection product designed specifically to meet their needs, to help them reduce the risks they experience.
In addition, current requirements for Tender Tow Plans can be unclear, causing uncertainty for captains to prepare, and difficulties for insurers to assess.
Download MCA letter:
Use of AIS on tenders under tow
“A pair of eyes in the boat” - what the captains say
Hear from captains why they are concerned about the risks of towing, the benefits of new insurance terms, and what they want from an Advanced Tow Protection product. Also, Nigel Atkinson from E-Touch talks about installation.
New insurance terms
Leading insurers including YachtPod and Millstream are now offering captains revised terms to reduce tender tow risk for everyone’s benefit, through:
- promoting use of Best Practice for standardised tender tow plans,
- requiring installation of Advanced Tow Protection.
This will help captains reduce the risk of tender loss under tow and, depending on individual risk, the new warranties may also give the yacht and captain more flexibility and reduced deductibles while towing.
The benefits of Advanced Tow Protection
“It’s like the difference between airbags and ABS on your car, where airbags protect you after the crash, but ABS stops you having the crash in the first place - tow protection tracks a tender after it’s been lost, but advanced tow protection helps you prevent losing it at all.”
Tow protection in the past: acting AFTER the loss
Until now, tow protection has focused on helping find a drifting tender after loss, insurers often require a captain to install a ‘satellite tracker’ on the tender. There are two quite different kinds of trackers designed for very different purposes. Both use GPS to find the tender’s position, but:
- AIS devices broadcast to nearby vessels on VHF to appear on bridge chart plotters and ECDIS to aid immediate recovery, and to warn shipping in the vicinity,
- Iridium devices send via satellite to tracking websites to despatch recovery vessel at a later date.
A tow protection system should have both.
However, AIS is an internationally regulated SOLAS system intended for collision avoidance, and to avoid overloading that system, AIS must NOT be used on a tender while under tow. But once adrift, activating AIS broadcast to alert shipping to a potential navigation hazard “would be useful”, so a tow protection system should automatically activate AIS if the tow fails.
Insurers should NOT require a captain to have an operational AIS on the tender under tow and so infringe regulations, or use the AIS target to monitor for failure of the tow.
Advanced tow protection: acting BEFORE the loss
The biggest value from a tow protection system would be to alert the captain in real time to potential issues, so that they can act to prevent an incident and loss occurring in the first place. Key safety data streamed direct to the bridge would give the captain “a pair of eyes in the boat”: monitoring status continuously, aware of developing issues and causes, able to take right contingency action at the right time to prevent the incident.
Industry experience shows that most losses are due to heavy swamping and/or failure of the tow arrangement (typically the tender attachments).
Tender claims are frequently for total loss because bilge water levels and shock load shave increased during the tow without the captain being aware and so not having taken early action.
Consultation with captains, insurers, yards, and the Wolfson Unit of Maritime Technology in the UK identified three groups of essential information required by the captain to manage risk effectively. These are difficult to monitor at a distance by sight when towing, particularly at night or in difficult seas, and should be continuously displayed in real time on the bridge:
‘Vital signs’ of key systems
Bilge water levels (including any separate engine bilge), duty cycle of automatic bilge pump(s), battery level
All three signs are required to understand issue and severity, e.g. bilge water level may be ‘medium’ and stable, however if bilge pump is running repeatedly and battery voltage is low, the captain knows they have limited time to take contingency action – e.g. seeking shelter to enable crew transfer to tender in safety.
Surging and yawing of the tender in building sea and swell height
The tow arrangement is likely to fail first under shock load, generated when tender surges on a wave and overruns tow, so towline goes slack then takes up again with a shock often exposing the weakest part of the tow system.
Pitching and rolling in difficult sea conditions, bow down trim, angle of list
Increased key motions indicates tender no longer in the stable configuration when tow started and must be rectified.
Key features of Advanced Tow Protection
Alert captains to issues so they can act before an incident occurs
Continuous display on bridge of live information showing tender safety status:
- Key systems: battery, bilge, pumps
- Instability: surging & yawing
- Motion: pitching & rolling, trim and list
Immediate awareness to enable prompt action
Safety alerts with user-set thresholds, integrated with yacht alarm management system.
Audible and visual “Tow lost” bridge alarm integrated with yacht alarm management system.
Track & find drifting tender for recovery at time of loss or later; warn other vessels of the hazard
Automatic activation of:
- AIS broadcast of tender position plus SOLAS notification
- Iridium reports to tracking website
- COLREG ‘Not Under Command’ lights
7-day independent battery back-up to maintain broadcasts and reporting.
The new standard in tow protection
Advanced Tow Protection
Reduced tow risk for all
Continuous safety information updated every 15 seconds to help captains stay fully aware of tender status and able to protect their tows.
Ask your broker about improved terms available for your yacht and program:
- Extend towing to include sunset to sunrise
- Extend towing up to 300 miles
- Reduction in tender deductibles
Easy to install
Designed for low cost, security and ease of installation on the superyacht:
- No antennas
- No cables to run aft
- No connection to WiFi, VSAT or on-board networks
No satellite usage costs
TowPro sends safety information and tender position across a secure VHF link, without any satellite messaging costs. VHF is the most robust ship-to-ship communication link – why it was chosen for AIS.
In this video, Paul Hailwood, risk assessor, introduces Standardised Tender Tow Plans.