Published: 1 January 2017

When deciding the ship’s berthing position it is important to consider the location of port property (such as fenders) and how they are positioned in relation to any protrusions or recesses on the ship’s hull. It is not just the more obvious parts of the hull such as the protruding bow flare or bridge wings that should be considered, but other less obvious areas.

In one example, a car carrier completed berthing about 15 minutes before low tide. The ship was positioned in accordance with the instructions of the port personnel but it seems that they focussed  in making sure that the ship was positioned in their own preferred location for setting down

the ship’s stern side ramp on the berth rather than taking into account the position of a fender. Nobody on the ship noticed that the tide was so low that the base of the stern side ramp was directly below a fender and that there was a risk of the ship’s hull becoming caught on the fender when the tide began to rise. Several hours later, the inevitable happened. The ship’s crew managed to adjust the mooring lines and shift the ship slightly along the berth but it was too late and the fender had by then been partially ripped away from the berth wall.

The master and crew should be aware that they are almost always legally responsible for the handling and berthing position of the ship, irrespective of the pilot or shore personnel giving guidance or instructions.

A risk assessment should be considered to make sure that the master and crew are aware of any undesirable locations in relation to port property, such as where fenders might become damaged by the ship, either during the actual berthing or with the changing tide. The master should receive continual observations and assistance from ship’s officers at the fore and aft stations during the berthing manoeuvre. A responsible officer should also be tasked to verify that the final position is safe in respect of potential protrusions on the ship or the berth before ‘shutting down’.

A further precaution would be to incorporate visual reminders on the ship’s hull, such as using paint to highlight any areas at risk of being caught on fenders and also using signs saying ‘no fenders’ near the stern area of the ship.