Dangers of Marine Bollard Failure! A Coast Guard Alert


The USCG has issued a new circular on the potential dangers and risks to ship owners and operators of marine bollard failure. The circular explains that “typically, the failures are associated with abnormal dynamic loads transferred to the bollard from a vessel, oftentimes caused by excessive winds acting against the sail area of vessel.”

Causes of marine bollard failure

Recently there have been a number of shore side marine bollard failures in US ports, as a result, vessels were cast adrift. A number of potential causes of these failures are identified as follows:

  • Rotting of organic bollards made of marine pilings;
  • undetected fracture of bollard castings due to manufacturer defects; ​
  • damage from previous overloads;
  • degradation of bollard foundations / fasteners; and
  • Failure to follow good marine mooring practices due to insufficient bollards.

USCG recommendations

As detailed by the USCG circular, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NAVAL Facilities Engineering Command and Air Force Civil Engineering Support Agency has issued a handbook providing “naval facilities guidance for the planning, inspection, assessment, and reporting of mooring hardware conditions.” The USCG encourages shore side facility personnel to use this handbook.

The USCG also recommends both facility owners and ship owners / operators develop “routine inspection programs” for bollards and other mooring equipment.

Finally, the Coast Guard recommends that vessel personnel should report deficient mooring equipment to facility managers.

Potential risks

The potential for marine bollard failure increases the risk of the vessel coming into contact with third party structures/objects and being involved with collisions with other vessels that are close by at the relevant berth.

These incidents can lead to physical damage to the vessel and potentially large/expensive third party claims (e.g. damage to berth/ship; loss of use etc.) being made against the vessel/the ship owner’s P&I club.

Proactive inspection

When bollards are visibly in a poor condition or state of repair, vessel personnel are encouraged to raise their concerns/objections with relevant facility managers, and to act appropriately to make sure that mooring does not take place on bollards which are likely to fail.

Particular care should be taken in times of high wind or heavy weather, where dynamic loads/stress acting on bollards are likely to be greater.

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Source: Standard Club


  1. Bollards come in many shapes, sizes, capacities and materials and throughout their life will suffer corrosion, fatigue and other effects.

    The forces exerted on a bollard are considerable, being in excess of 200 tonnes-force (metric), which can weaken the bollard and its fixings to the point that the bollard fails to withstand such forces. Should this happen, it can cause catastrophic damage to vessels, dockside equipment and to the quayside itself, as well as serious or even fatal incidents. It is therefore best practice to test mooring bollards at regular intervals.
    An often-overlooked area when it comes to the safe mooring of vessels in ports, shipyards and harbours is testing the safe working load (SWL) of bollards. With the ever increasing size of vessels, the time has come to focus and raise the issues that have been experienced with bollard failure, as well as the challenges faced in testing the SWL of bollards.
    For further information, would you please view:


    BLT is compliant with the Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) 4-150- 08 – Inspection of Mooring Hardware and operates to MIL-STD- 3007F.

    BLT also has considerable aggregated data in the global field of bollard load testing and would be very much delighted to contribute to the initiative and/or to help raise awareness throughout the sector.


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