Ways to Reduce Mooring Accidents



Mooring operations are one of the dangerous tasks onboard ships.  The dangers associated with mooring operations are very real, regardless of experience.  The smallest of lapses, even those far from the mooring deck, can have significant consequences during mooring operations.  There have been various innovations across the maritime industry like the automated mooring technology, to reduce the hazards associated with traditional mooring systems.  Still majority of vessels rely on mooring arrangements involving ropes and winches.  These systems have benefits, as they are flexible and enable berthing at most ports.  However, the risks associated with operating traditional mooring systems continue to increase as vessels become larger.

Risks involved in mooring:


  • Poor overview
  • Stopper breaks
  • Oil leak from winch – slip/injury
  • Too cold
  • Crossing line
  • Sea rising
  • Lines in mess on mooring boat
  • Wires/ropes tight and slack/or different material, elasticity and breaking strength
  • Line thrown without telling docker
  • Strong current
  • Moving to and fro
  • Standing in a bight
  • Too many turns (on the drum)
  • Sitting on a line
  • Untidy lines
  • Wrong outfit
  • Mess on the quay
  • Line caught in fender
  • Telling off/bad communication
  • Lines lying too long in sun & water
  • Language confusion
  • Bad lighting
  • Poor communication between pilot & captain & tug
  • Line ‘singing’ before it parts
  • Wet paint
  • Unaware of risk, being in snap back zone
  • Standing on the line
  • Draught changed
  • Line comes off bollard – steep angle
  • Line round propeller
  • Several lines on same bollard

These mooring incidents when analysed can be categorised into four safety factor groups:

  • Individual actions – observable behaviour/action by operational crew.
  • Local shipboard conditions – include aspects of the shipboard environment that influence individual actions, such as fatigue, weather, ship motion, workload, skills, knowledge and competency.
  • Organisational influences – include organisational shortfalls in areas such as; safety management systems, supervision, training and onshore support.
  • Design and equipment – design shortfalls or component failures, for example mooring line parted.

Hierarchy of controls:

The effective ways to control mooring risk can be better explained through the Hierarchy of controls. 


  • Address the source of the hazards
  • Eliminate hazards by physical efforts.
  • Replace the hazard wherever possible.
  • Avoid people from hazard.
  • Customise or change work strategy of the people
  • Conduct safety meetings, briefings and training
  • Display incident photographs
  • Include incident details in a bulletin
  • Inspect all equipment regularly.
  • Review of procedures.

Importance of Communication in mooring activities:

Communication is identified as a common contributing factor to mooring incidents.  Increased risk exists when various work groups do not have a clear understanding of each other’s tasks and actions.  when a number of teams or groups such as the bridge team, ship mooring parties, tug crews, lines boats and shore gangs are involved in mooring, effective communication becomes critical.  Factors like distance, line of sight, language, culture, radio communication, background noise and other factors can further complicate communication.

Points to be remembered while mooring:

  • Make use of the Hierarchy of Controls and always try to eliminate hazards where possible
  • Ensure all equipment, especially mooring lines, are maintained in good condition
  • Maintain clear and effective communications between all stations
  • Take the opportunity to learn from incidents, whether they are yours or others
  • Be proactive and identify weaknesses that could lead to accidents during normal operations.


  1. Always wear the correct personal protective equipment (PPE), which is an important part of proper preparation considering that PPE is the last line of defence.
  2. Always consider whether you are in a snap back zone and never stand on either an open line or a closed bight of line.  Keep an eye out for all members of the team.  If you think they are in an unsafe position, alert them.
  3. All operations need to be carried out calmly without rushing about.  Rushing leads to slips, trips and falls.
  4. Never lose sight of what is going on around you and have an escape route from any likely danger (that is, avoid being trapped against the bulwark or other obstacle when a line parts).
  5. Always put an eye onto a bollard or bitts by holding the eye either on its side or by a messenger line to avoid getting fingers trapped against the bollard if the line suddenly snaps tight.
  6. Never heave blindly on a line when no one is watching what is happening at the other end.
  7. Never try to be heroic by jumping onto a line that is clearly running over the side and out of control as you are likely to go overboard with it.
  8. Never run more than one line around a fairlead sheave as the lines chafe through quicklier and the sheave is really only strong enough to take the load of a single line under tension.
  9. Never use any equipment that is obviously faulty.  If you notice damage, then it should be reported and an alternative arrangement for the mooring line used.
  10. Never let go of a mooring line under heavy load without determining first why the load is so heavy and then taking the proper precautions if it must be let go.

Mooring Do’s and Dont’s:



and Reference