Mooring Incident Leads To Crew Fatality

Credits: BMA

The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) has published a marine investigation report to draw lessons learned from a fatal injury that took place during mooring operation aboard the vessel Aruba Pearl.

What happened 

On the morning of 26 October 2022, the Bahamas flagged general cargo vessel Aruba Pearl was manoeuvring into position in preparation for securing its lines to a series of fixed mooring buoys on the Cooper River, Charleston, South Carolina in the United States of America.

During mooring operations, an able-bodied seafarer (AB) suffered fatal injuries when a mooring line that was under tension on the mooring winch sprung free from a bitt that it had been passed around, striking him in the chest.

Despite immediate medical assistance from the crew and ambulance crew ashore a short while later, they were unable to revive him.

Why it happened

The mooring line that was being guided onto the winch drum had been placed on the wrong side of the bitt in preparation for applying the stopper. Once tension was applied and increased it sprung free and struck the AB.

The mooring line when under load would not have given any audible warning that it was about to recoil, nor was the AB aware that his positioning placed them in any immediate danger.

Credit: NTSB


The work party did not assess all potential risks, including safe positioning of crew, prior to commencing the work. The AB was in a dangerous position, attempting to apply a stopper in the wrong direction, likely distracted by untangling the line.

Credit: BMA

A comprehensive review of the mooring arrangement plan and crew responsibilities was not considered, and the third officer deviated from procedural responsibilities when assisting in line handling, rather than overseeing and controlling the activity of the mooring party.

Actions taken 

The managing company of the vessel, SMT Shipping Poland, has undergone a thorough review of its shoreside and onboard operations, implementing changes to its management structure and safety management system.

The review included an overhaul of risk management procedures, including compulsory training for all ship officers.

Furthermore, the SMT Academy was created, offering online training material for all crew members on onboard operations. Safety officers were also required to complete a mandatory training course offered by an external provider.

Additionally, crew contract periods were reduced from nine months to six months to address concerns about fatigue and mental health.

Lessons learned

All personnel working in areas where mooring lines are under tension, should be aware of the associated risks of snap back and recoil when mooring lines either part or come adrift of mooring arrangements on deck, often resulting in serious injury or fatality.

Never tension mooring lines with an upward lead around bitts so that it is retained by the flange – the likelihood of it slipping up and off is incredibly high.

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Source: Bahamas Maritime Authority