Commercial Boat Mooring Safety

Commercial Boat Mooring Safety

Keeping a commercial vessel safe doesn’t begin and end when it is out in open water. Although most accidents and mishaps occur when a boat is away from the dock, it is just as important to keep safety practices in mind when mooring and anchoring sea craft.

Of course, commercial marine insurance may cover losses or damages that may affect a vessel. Nevertheless, it is crucial to implement policies and procedures that ensure the ship’s safety before, during, and after mooring operations.

Why safe mooring is so important

Mooring and anchoring commercial vessels may seem pretty straightforward, but they are some of the most critical and hazardous operations involving ships. Improper mooring and unsafe practices have resulted in serious injuries and even deaths, many of which could have been avoided by awareness and due diligence.

Apart from the risk of injury, improper mooring can also cause considerable damage and loss of property. Ships can collide with other vessels or cause significant damage to shore structures. These incidents can result in costly damage and the possible legal liability of ship owners.

How to ensure safe mooring

Safe mooring involves implementing procedures that reduce the risk for vessels and personnel during deployment and anchoring. Careful thought will have to be given to the arrangement of ships, the use of proper mooring equipment, and awareness of local weather conditions.

Of course, these factors may differ significantly between ports. This is why it is necessary to go through a comprehensive preplanning process before initiating any mooring operation.

Preplanning the mooring process

Preplanning typically begins when the shipmaster is informed of the next port of destination. The navigating officers gather as much relevant information about the port as possible from industry publications such as “Guide To Port Entry” and “Sailing Direction”. These publications provide data on thousands of ports worldwide and essential information about local navigation for specific ports.

Based on the information gathered by the navigating officers, the shipmaster conducts a safety briefing for the crew. A risk assessment is also made to ensure that everyone knows the proper safety procedures to follow.

Mooring monitoring and deployment

The shipmaster is primarily responsible for ensuring that the mooring operation is performed according to standard safety practices. Specific tasks usually include the following:

  • planning interaction with tugboats
  • planning and supervision
  • ensuring proper communication
  • ensuring personnel competence
  • ensuring the availability of sufficient mooring team personnel
  • gaining familiarity with shore requirements regarding moorings, traffic, and tidal and weather conditions

All procedures and equipment to be used during mooring should comply with industry guidelines and local regulations and be tested thoroughly. Key personnel will be tasked with identifying, evaluating, and recording unsafe conditions for presentation at the next Safety and Health Committee meeting. Any essential corrective measures will be implemented as needed.

Crew responsibilities

The ship’s crew also has a role in ensuring the safe and proper mooring of the vessel. The mooring plan is discussed with the pilot, and officers prepare for the procedure based on the plan. Factors such as wind speed and direction, underwater currents, the tide, keel clearance, and the surge of passing ships should also be considered.

Before arriving at the port, the berth deck crew will be directed to prepare the mooring lines for deployment. In commercial vessels, these typically include the following:

  • Breast lines. These lines lead to the shore perpendicular to the vessel’s fore and aft lines. They are used to keep the ship headed in a single direction off the berth. These aren’t usually used in container ports to avoid collision with gantry cranes on shore.
  • Head lines. These lead to the shore from the ship’s fore-end, usually at a 45° angle to the fore and aft line.
  • Spring lines. These lead to shore in an almost fore and aft direction. They are used to prevent the ship from drifting while it is berthed. They consist of headsprings that prevent the boat from moving forward and back springs that prevent it from moving aft.
  • Stern lines. These lines lead to shore from the ship’s poop section. They typically run at a 45° angle to the fore and aft lines.

Every effort is made to ensure the crew’s safety throughout the mooring operation. This is one of the main reasons for the risk assessment procedure. When the plan is carried out correctly, the boat should be moored properly without incident.

About Merrimac Marine Insurance

At Merrimac Marine, we are dedicated to providing insurance for the marine industry to protect your clients’ business and assets. For more information about our products and programs, contact our specialists today at (800) 681-1998.