West Coast Towing Company Commits To Safety With Non-Slip Coating

Founded as a family-owned business in 1880, Shaver Transportation today operates 20 grain barges and 15 tugs on the Columbia/Snake River System. The company’s commitment to safety has always been strong. The Shaver ship-assist tug Sommer S was one of the first towing vessels to receive a certificate of inspection under the Subchapter M Coast Guard option.

Beginning about 12 years ago, Shaver decided to make a substantial investment in safety by coating the walking surfaces of its boats and barges with a two-part epoxy coating.

Shaver uses two brands. One is made by ITW Polymers Sealants North America for American Safety Technologies and is used on the flight decks of Navy and Coast Guard vessels. The other is manufactured by KelCoatings, a maker of custom coatings for steel and aluminum equipment with a 50-year history.

Before epoxy products like this were introduced to the marine market, crews used to mix grit into deck surface paint by hand. “That worked OK, as long as you kept up with your deck painting,” said Rob Rich, vice president of marine services at Shaver. But it didn’t last as long.

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

The epoxy products have to be applied while the boats or barges are laid up. “A shipyard crew of six or eight people chips and blasts the old paint down to the bare metal, then applies a special primer before adding the two-part epoxy coating,” said Rich.

“It’s about the consistency of peanut butter,” he said. “It has grit suspended in it. It’s so gooey and thick that the roller used to apply it is a piece of PVC pipe.”

The result is a “tall” slip-proof coating up to a quarter-inch thick. “Not only does it ensure more user safety, but it sends a strong message of our safety commitment to our crews who are on deck in heavy rain, high winds, snow and ice out here in the Northwest,” said Rich. “As all mariners know, slip and fall injuries are a major concern aboard vessels.”

While the cost upfront is not insignificant, the coating offers other benefits besides increased safety. “It doesn’t chip or crack, the treatment lasts 10 years, and it completely seals the metal deck surfaces, so no rust gets in,” said Rich. “So over time, the investment is well worth it.”