Watch out for live lines

The separation of strained mooring lines has been associated with some of the worst human injuries and loss of life recorded in the Gard claims portfolio. The use of worn mooring lines, over-tightening of the brakes or sudden movements of the vessel are among the main reasons for ropes to stretch beyond their breaking limits and separate.

In a safety reminder issued in July 2022, the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) points out that such incidents continue to occur despite well-published guidance on the subject. Even though there have been many advancements in technology and automation in the shipping industry, berths are still a place where people have to work near heavy live lines and where interaction is unavoidable. . For this reason, it is important that safety guidelines are followed, says the UK MAIB, and emphasizes the following three key elements for safer mooring operations:

• Equipment: Ensuring that the right equipment is used and then maintained in good condition is essential to ensuring safety on mooring decks. Mooring lines should be regularly inspected to ensure that wear has not degraded the line, that there are no hard spots on the synthetic lines, and that there are no signs contamination by oils and greases. The lead of each mooring line should be carefully considered to avoid putting extra pressure on the lines or introducing chafing points. Improper or poorly maintained equipment has contributed to incidents where lines have separated or released under tension and hit crew members. It is therefore essential to meticulously check the equipment to detect any undesirable element for the safety of the crew.

• Planning and briefing: Planning is important in any operation on the mooring deck. Risk assessment and control measures should be reviewed for each new operation and planning should take into account the intended mooring configuration, paying particular attention to the potential risk of rollback. Areas where mooring deck operations take place should be tidy and mooring lines should be closely monitored at all berths – this is vitally important where there is a large amplitude of tide. Good planning also means ensuring that all sailors are properly informed of anchorage configurations, that they know what to do and that they are positioned on less dangerous parts of the deck. Sufficient crew should be on deck to carry out the work safely, but too many crew should be avoided as this may unnecessarily endanger others.

• Communication: Finally, crew communication is of the utmost importance when working on mooring decks, as it can be extremely dangerous if people are not able to clearly interact. Everyone involved in an operation must communicate effectively, but must also consider the number of circuits used. Too many voices on the same circuit can cause confusion and risk talking too much, however, using separate circuits can leave some crews in the dark. Ultimately, effective communication can make the difference between safety and putting people at risk. It is therefore important that the mooring plan ensures that good communications are maintained between all parties involved in the mooring operation.

For UK-flagged vessels, Chapter 26 of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seafarers provides guidance on this. Other flag States may have similar recommendations. Section 19 of the ILO code of practice for the prevention of accidents on board ship at sea and in port also provides recommendations and practical advice concerning mooring and unmooring operations.

Additional information and recommendations

Note that Safe Mooring is also on the IMO agenda. Safety of mooring operations is addressed in SOLAS Reg.II-1/3-8 and the amendments coming into force on 1 January 2024 explicitly require occupational safety to be considered when designing mooring devices and equipment selection. In addition, the amendments include requirements for inspection and maintenance of mooring equipment and guidelines are provided in:

  • MSC.1/Circ.1175/Rev.1 and MSC.1/Circ.1619 on the design of mooring devices and the selection of appropriate mooring equipment, lines and accessories, and
  • MSC.1/Circ.1620 for inspection and maintenance of mooring equipment including lines.

Ship managers are advised to review their mooring procedures and, if necessary, revise them to ensure that they avoid unsafe and unhealthy work situations during mooring operations. In addition, it is important to ensure that procedures are fully understood and followed, and that seafarers receive appropriate onboard training to help them recognize, assess and control the risks associated with mooring operations.

The Gard regularly publishes case studies for safety meetings on the risk assessment process and the identification of the chain of errors that led to an incident. One of our case studies is on mooring operations and we encourage captains to use it as part of their training – for comparison, analysis and discussion between officers and crew. aboard their ships.
Origin: Gard,