Mooring incidents continue to take a horrific toll on seafarers. As the UK’s MAIB report on its latest investigation into a mooring incident aboard Freemantle Express, oversights big and small lead to devastating consequences.
Mooring injuries come in two varieties – severe and fatal. In the case of Freemantle Express it was fatal, an OS lost his life.
Says the report summary: “On 15 July 2011, Fremantle Express, a UK-registered container vessel, was berthing in the port of Veracruz when a headline parted under tension. The broken mooring line recoiled and struck an ordinary seaman (OS) who was standing on the forecastle. The seaman died of his injuries.
The vessel was moving astern along her berth at the time of the accident, assisted by two tugs.
The MAIB investigation found that: the combined effect of the vessel’s movement astern and her bow paying off the berth had resulted in a snatch loading on the mooring rope; the rope had previously suffered abrasion damage that had lowered its residual strength to less than 66% of its original strength; the OS had stepped into the snap-back zone of the rope; and no warning had been given to him by other members of the mooring party”.
Among the MAIB findings:
- The re-positioning of Fremantle Express’s forward mooring deck winch controllers in January 2011 was ill-considered, and no forethought had been given to the potential consequences of moving them.
- The requirement for the bosun to face aft while operating the winch controllers removed his ability to monitor the deck, and so prevented him from supporting the chief officer with his experience.
- The chief officer was unaware of the risk of the mooring rope parting until it was too late to give a warning, and the bosun was unaware that Shiva was standing in the snap-back zone behind him.
- Had the bosun been operating the mooring winch in a central position facing forward, it is likely that he would have recognised the risk of the rope parting and would have warned the chief officer and Shiva accordingly.
- Analysis of samples of the parted mooring rope following the accident, suggests that a lower standard of acceptability was being applied on board than that required in the company’s instructions.
- The accident could have been prevented had the company’s rope retirement criteria been followed on board and had the damaged and degraded mooring rope been withdrawn from service.
- The trainee seaman and cadet were both aware of the bow paying off the berth but did not recognise the risk of the rope parting in sufficient time.
- Had one of the three ABs on board been deployed to the forward mooring station, he might have more readily recognised the danger and provided a sufficiently early warning to prevent the accident.
- A tool-box meeting conducted before each operation would have reminded all mooring party members of the intended plan and the safety considerations to take into account, and would have encouraged further communications and interaction during the operation.
- Although the unexpected lateral movement of the bow contributed to the accident, the potential of mooring ropes to unexpectedly come under load is an everyday occupational hazard, and mooring parties should be be continually alert to the possibility.
A recommendation has been issued to the vessel’s managers designed to ensure that the effectiveness of control measures put in place following this accident is kept under review and that, during mooring operations, a sufficient number of experienced crew is available
at each mooring station.