UK Club warns on mooring safety

Paul Gunton

Paul Gunton · 28 August 2019


An incident in which a crew member was injured during mooring has prompted the UK P&I Club to issue a warning to its members.

A bulk carrier was discharging cargo alongside a mineral terminal when the terminal requested the master to shift ship approximately 100m astern to re-position the vessel. The crew were ordered to their mooring stations and the main engine was placed on stand-by ready for use. The vessel was to be moved astern using only the mooring lines, which were to be transferred from bollard to bollard by the shore linesmen, with an ebb tide running from ahead.

The master became concerned that the vessel was developing excessive sternway during the shifting operation and ordered the forward and aft mooring parties to check the movement using the forward headlines and the aft back spring rope. On the poop deck, an AB tightened up the back spring winch brake and as the strain came on the rope, it parted with one end of the rope snapping back, violently striking the second officer. The injured seaman suffered broken ribs and serious internal injuries.

The rope parted due to local abrasion damage at the point of failure combined with the AB over-tightening the winch brake, preventing the brake from rendering below the breaking load of the rope.

David Nichol, Senior Loss Prevention Executive at UK P&I Club, said “A synthetic fibre rope will stretch under tension and if it parts when under load, the sudden release of stored energy will cause it to snap-back with great velocity, risking death or injury to persons who are in its way. This accident was the result of a loss of control during the shifting manoeuvre. The effect of a strong ebb tide on the vessel was not properly considered and there was a failure to make use of the main engine until after control had been lost.”

The club said that lessons learnt included:

  • Mooring operations should be properly risk assessed and planned to ensure all crew are aware of how the operation is to be conducted as well as to the potential hazards and safety precautions
  • Mooring machinery and ropes should be maintained and frequently checked in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Over-tightening winch brakes may lead to the mooring rope breaking load being exceeded
  • Be aware that the whole mooring deck is a potential snap-back zone during operations and always keep clear of mooring ropes when under tension.
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