Mooring equipment sound but inspectors concerned about procedures - 11 October 2010

Most equipment used in the mooring of the UK P&I Club's insured merchant vessels was in good condition while the procedures and practices involved in berthing and casting off were generally carried out satisfactorily, according to the Club's ship inspectors. However, some vessels did not have appropriate procedures in place or carry out adequate working operations.

In some cases, crew were not properly trained or supervised; there was a dearth of non-slip mooring decks; and mooring ropes were frequently stored on drum ends which in turn were often covered in layers of paint instead of synthetic coating or resins.

In the year to March 2010, the UK Club's in-house inspectors looked at the mooring arrangements, equipment and procedures on 373 ships, noted shortcomings and analysed reported mooring incidents. The aim was to gauge standards, highlighting areas which were doing well and others which needed improvement.

The mooring arrangements on 14 per cent of vessels were "not satisfactory." Seven per cent of ISM mooring procedures were found unacceptable. A significant portion had some way to go to improve mooring procedures to an appropriate standard.

Within the last 24 months, only four per cent of ships had reported a "near miss" relating to mooring operations, involving spring lines snapping back, men standing in the rope bight and parted lines.

There was concern about insufficient skilled personnel being deployed to moor a vessel safely and effectively. The most common number both forward and aft was four but ranged between two and seven.

The ship inspectors' report to the UK Club board coupled comments with advice for improvement.

It was often difficult to grease the equipment on winches correctly. All greasing points must be free, working correctly and not painted over. To ensure equipment has been properly greased, each point or number should be highlighted and the information included in a plan.

The standards of winches inspected was very high----only one per cent were below standard. However, some vessels' split drums were not set up correctly. There should be only four or five turns on the smaller drum with the rest of the rope on the larger one.

Some 51 per cent of vessels inspected carried out annual break tests, 26 per cent did not, and for 23 per cent, this was not applicable. Although these tests are mainly a tanker requirement, they would improve safety for other vessels during high-risk mooring operations.

Nearly a quarter of the vessels inspected kept moorings on the drum ends instead of making them fast. This is not good practice as ropes made fast on drum ends are more likely to jump and cause expensive damage to the drum end bearings. Replacement ropes may be required.

Some 94 per cent of vessels had painted the drum ends where a build up of paint could cause rope damage. Drum ends should be smooth and coated with a thin layer of boiled linseed oil or other approved synthetic liquid for protection.

Most ropes, wires and links were found in good condition. Reassuringly, over 250 of the vessels inspected did not use spliced ropes. Ropes in poor or damaged condition should be replaced.

All ropes, wires and Tonsberg links used for mooring should be certificated. These should be clearly labelled and kept in an accessible file for inspection by port authorities. (About three per cent of ships inspected did not have them). Spare mooring ropes, wires and links should not be overstowed with paint, chemicals or other shipboard or general cleaning items. Such equipment should be stowed clear of the deck, preferably on a pallet and in a dry ventilated position. Mooring ropes and wires stowed on deck during sea passages should not be exposed to sunlight, sea spray or funnel soot. Canvas or heavy duty polyethylene covers would prolong rope and wire life.

Decks, bitts and ship

Some 32 per cent of ships had fully non-slip decks while the same percentage had none at all. About one-quarter had non-slip decks around bitts and drum ends. Mixing sand or an approved non-slip aggregate into the paint can be very effective in helping to reduce mooring accidents.

Only six per cent of vessels had painted snap-back zones on deck. Many accidents occur because someone is standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Well marked zones should reduce such accidents.

Some 99 per cent of bitts were in good condition while 96 per cent of fairleads and rollers were free moving and regularly greased. A well maintained clutter free mooring area is essential for safe operation.

The UK Club has seen a growing number of incidents when non-deck crew are employed during mooring operations. It is often crew with insufficient training who are seriously hurt when things go wrong, particularly in bights or snapback zones.

This highlights the need for all crew to be trained and familiar with bights, snap-back zones and prospective hazards.

Some 15 per cent of ships used mixed moorings while nine per cent did not use the correct stoppers. Both shortcomings contribute to accidents and should be rectified onboard. Correct stoppers must be used with appropriate mooring ropes/wires. They should not be left around the mooring ropes once they have been made fast to the bitts.

UK Club Loss Prevention Director Karl Lumbers explained: "Taken overall, the inspectors were pleased with what they found but we cannot afford to be complacent. To reduce the risk of accidents, vessels and equipment must be maintained to a high standard. All personnel should be adequately trained with the correct personal protective equipment. Correct procedures should be in place and the required work permits issued with all mooring operations supervised by a competent person. Training in mooring operations should be incorporated into vessels' regular schedules and include all personnel."

Staff Author