Published: October 1, 2018

If a ship is not moored correctly there is a risk of damage to the ship and also a serious risk of injury to the crew, especially if mooring wires or ropes break.

The OCIMF Mooring Equipment Guidelines and the Effective Mooring publications contain detailed

information on best practices relating to mooring operations and equipment. It seems a good time to remind Members of some of the important issues to bear in mind when conducting mooring operations.

  • Before conducting any mooring operations, an effective risk assessment must be undertaken, taking into account the ship’s characteristics, type, size, draft and prevailing weather conditions.
  • Mooring equipment should be inspected regularly and any defects repaired promptly. All rollers and fairleads should run smoothly and all ropes and wires must be in good condition.
  • A mooring plan should be prepared which includes careful consideration of the type of mooring (for example whether at a quay or dolphin), the type of fendering, and what type and location of bollards are available.
  • If suitable leads cannot be provided for the ship’s moorings, the master should take additional precautions, including shortening the notice period for the main engine to be available and making provisional arrangements for tugs, particularly if adverse weather conditions are expected.
  • The current and expected weather conditions must be taken into consideration, including wind direction and strength, and also the sea conditions if the berth is open to the sea or directly affected by winds or seas from a particular direction.
  • The effect of Under Keel Clearance (UKC) and the anticipated tidal stream at the berth must also be considered when deciding the appropriate mooring arrangements as the moorings on ships with shallower UKC can be subject to additional forces.
  • Slip and trip hazards should be identified and highlighted; these could include exposed cleats, hatches and pipes and also slippery decks caused by water, grease or cargo residues.
  • When mooring lines are under strain, all personnel should remain in positions of safety i.e. out of the snap back zones. Safe zones should be identified and pointed out to all responsible crew prior to mooring.
  • Mooring lines that are not on mooring drums should be secured on bitts rather than on warping drums.
  • Given the number of claims relating to damage to fenders, taking a picture of the berth and the fenders just prior to berthing and just after departing can help in defending such claims. Some of our Members utilise CCTV or cameras mounted on the bridge wings to monitor mooring operations.
  • An efficient mooring watch must be maintained at all times. When ships are berthed in tidal or river berths, or berths where there is passing sea traffic, the mooring lines must be closely monitored to ensure that they do not become slack. This is particularly important if another ship passes too close or too fast, creating a wash. In such cases, photo and video evidence is very useful and a report should be made promptly, even if no damage is immediately apparent.
  • If mooring lines are secured on self-tensioning winches, they will also need to be closely monitored, particularly if the ship surges.
  • If weather conditions get worse a timely decision must be made whether to stay, and adjust the moorings accordingly, or leave the berth for the open sea or anchorage – this decision must not be dictated by commercial considerations.
  • Decisions must be made and appropriate action taken before the bad weather sets in or it might be too late to act.


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