Deaths & Injuries During Mooring Increasing

Friday, February 13, 2009

Serious accidents in mooring operations involving death or serious injury appear to be increasing over the long term, according to the UK P&I Club. The Club finds it has spent over $34m settling related insurance claims over the past 20 years.

The numbers rarely exceeded four per cent of all claims on the Club and two per cent of settlements in 1987-97. During the next decade, however, the number peaked at 14 per cent in 2000 and the value at 15 per cent two years later. In 2007, both numbers and values dropped to 1997 levels. However, the Club regards this as “encouraging but not necessarily indicative of a long-term trend.”

Mooring injuries have been only the seventh most frequent cause of personal injuries dealt with by the Club but the third most expensive per claim, indicating that these injuries are often more severe.

Some 14 per cent of all accidents involved deaths. Some 23 per cent were leg injuries, 14 per cent back, 11 per cent multiple and seven per cent arm and head.

Knees, shoulders, hands, chests and faces each the subject of about three per cent with pelvis, eye, foot, thigh, ankle and wrist injuries completing the total.

Most accidents occurred during the handling of ropes or wires, whether parting (53%) or not (42%). Just five per cent emanated from equipment failure. Tug operations were involved in 13 per cent of claims where ropes and wires parted while weather, equipment problems, other vessels’ wash and ship to ship activity contributed to nearly 30 per cent. Where ropes or wires slipped or jumped off equipment, seafarers were sometimes caught up or struck by them.

The UK Club feels its own claims figures point to similar experience across the shipping industry.

Mooring operations are dangerous to crew on board because of the great loads mooring lines carry and the possibility of their breaking under tension, according to the Club’s newly published advisory newsletter Understanding Mooring Incidents. As hazards are inseparable from operations, a risk assessment should be made of all mooring areas on board.

Hazard areas include bulkhead frames, mooring bitts, pedestal fairleads, cleats and structures such as the windlass and hawse pipe cover platforms. All relevant deck areas should be kept clean, clear, painted and marked, especially the ‘snap back’ zones where broken ropes and wires can recoil with devastating effect.

Highlighting hazards, therefore, should help new crew, cadets, trainees, visitors and even experienced crew who can become complacent, tired or too busy to notice a hazardous situation developing.

Operations should always be undertaken with enough crew to do the job safely. That means at least two people for each mooring station. Even with automatic mooring systems, a second person should be ready for things going wrong. All operatives should have a clear view of relevant equipment and active operations.

Only personnel involved in mooring operations should be present at stations during operations. Inexperienced people, such as cadets, should be supervised by experienced seafarers.

Deck officers must watch out for hazards and take action to avoid possible incidents but crew must take responsibility for themselves. A significant number of personal injury incidents still result from standing within a bight or coil of rope. Even experienced seafarers do not always pay enough heed to the snap-back zone when a mooring line is under tension.

Personal protective equipment (hard hats, safety footwear and boiler suits or other protective full-length clothing) should be worn during mooring operations. So should gloves but loose gloves might become trapped under a line on a windlass drum, hauling a crew member over it.

Crew should not operate a windlass or capstan and handle ropes at the same time. Fixing a lanyard to an operating lever and pulling on it from the rope-handling position should not be allowed. If only two crew members carry out mooring operations, they should work together on the lines at one end of the vessel and then move to the other. The crew member at the windlass drum must keep his hands clear of the turns and avoid becoming fouled in coils of rope.

Windlass, capstan, pedestal fairleads, bitts, welding and ropes and wires should be inspected regularly to ensure they are fully and safely functioning. Ropes should be properly stored away from wet decks, precipitation and direct sunlight.

Poor mooring arrangements can be responsible for claims for damage to cargo handling equipment, docks and other structures. A vessel may surge or break her lines because of strong currents or the effect of passing vessels’ wash.

A ship overhanging her berth may be unable to lead any stern lines aft of the ship.  The master should consider using the anchor and mooring lines running aft from the main deck or other areas. Tidal and weather patterns can help to predict how the vessel will be affected. Cargo operations should be stopped or not commenced if conditions do not appear safe. If there are insufficient mooring arrangements ashore, the vessel may be forced to pay out an extremely long lead on the stern lines. The master should protest to the port authority.

(Source: UK P&I Club)

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