For over ten years it has been an industry practice in some US ports for longshoremen to use motorised vehicles for the purpose of dragging ships’ mooring lines to shoreside bollards during the berthing operation. In such cases one end of the mooring line is on the ship’s winch while the other is made fast to a tagline which is attached to the front of a quayside motorised vehicle. This practice was adopted in order to prevent back injuries to longshoremen while hauling heavy mooring lines.
Recently, during a berthing in New Jersey, a mooring line suddenly became taut for unknown reasons (possibly due to the vessel surging away from the quay, or the line fouling on a shipboard winch), causing the shoreside vehicle that was hauling the line to roll over on its side and be dragged off the pier into the water, where its longshoreman driver was drowned.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) noted that the use of vehicles to haul mooring lines was an industry practice, but that in this case no emergency disconnect hook had been provided on the vehicle and that there was no direct communication system between shipboard personnel at the winch and the longshoreman in the vehicle.
The US Coast Guard’s report noted that shoreside personnel were unable to take remedial action when the tension on the mooring line suddenly increased, and that the vessel should have had more slack line on the deck to compensate in the event of fouling at the winch. The US Coast Guard has recommended that the practice of using manned vehicles to haul mooring lines should be prohibited.