The Importance of Moving Cautiously on Mooring Maneuvers

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By Tom Stieghorst

While at PortMiami recently on the MSC Seaside, I had a chance to see Carnival Cruise Line’s Sensation ease into its berth behind us. I’m always amazed at how slowly and deliberately cruise ships move towards their moorings. Caution is necessary, of course, because big cruise ships don’t change direction very quickly, and even minor mistakes can have major consequences.

That is evident in a report released in mid-November on the Celebrity Infinity, which smacked a mooring dolphin (that’s the term for a fixed, standalone piling, not the mammal) while trying to dock in Ketchikan, Alaska, in 2016. The contact left a 9-inch hole in the ship and caused $1.15 million in damages to the vessel and the dock.

A major issue, according to the National Transportation Safety Board report, was high wind in the area, with gusts up to 40 miles an hour.

Even an older ship like the 2001-built Infinity has more than a dozen decks, which can catch the wind like a huge sail, especially if the winds are broadside to the ship. The Infinity was trying to dock between two already moored ships. When the captain and staff captain realized they were coming too fast into the dock, they released an anchor to slow the speed. The anchor held the bow, but prompted the stern to swing around, causing the impact.

At a pre-arrival bridge briefing, according to a Power Point presentation described in the report, the expected wind for the docking was listed at 15 to 18 mph. “This was clearly at odds with forecasts reviewed by investigators, and it is unclear why the bridge team did not use the most recently available weather information,” the report said.

The biggest vehicle I’ve ever piloted is a 25-foot recreational vehicle, so I’ve got nothing but respect for anyone trying to steer an 863-foot cruise ship in high winds. The staff captain told investigators he had docked the Celebrity Infinity or similar vessels hundreds of times and that he and the captain both believed the vessel could be docked safely in 30-to-35 knot winds.

They were mistaken that day. Fortunately, none of the 3,131 passengers and crew aboard were injured, and no pollution occurred. But the NTSB concluded that they could have been more prepared for the challenge. It said that “the probable cause of the Celebrity Infinity’s allision (cq) with the dock was the (captain’s) failure to plan, monitor, and execute a safe docking evolution.”

Disclaimer: The above image is for representation of the below incident and need not be considered as an actual case image.

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Source: Travel Weekly

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