Sudden Load Due To Waves Broke the Backspring While Mooring



Marine Safety Investigation Unit (MSI) of Malta issued a simplified investigation report on an accident, that happened during Cielo di Tocopilla, a register bulk carrier was loading steel products in the port of Ilo, Peru and the whiplash of the mooring rope section struck a bosun on his right leg.

In particular, MSI reports that Cielo di Tocopilla was moored port side, on the South pier of the port’s South breakwater, with starboard anchor and stern lines fast to a conventional mooring buoy. Additionally, she had four headlines, three backspring forward and four backspring aft secured on the pier.

Sketch showing Cielo di Tocopilla on the South breakwater pier

At the time of departure, the bridge was manned by the master, an OOW, an AB and the deck cadet. At 2142 (LT), a local pilot boarded the vessel and two tugs were made fast fore and aft. At the time, moderate to near gale was blowing from the South southwest. The sea was rough. The forward mooring station was manned by the chief mate, the bosun and two able seamen. By 2220, the starboard anchor was up and only one forward backspring remained ashore.

The remaining backspring was led from the starboard winch, through a series of pedestal rollers abaft of the winch to the port shoulder fairlead, abreast of cargo hold. From there, about 60 m of the line was run to the shore bollard. The chief mate standing near the vessel’s stem had an outward view of the mooring lines. The bosun was operating the starboard windlass/winch.

During the un-berthing operation, Cielo di Tocopilla ranged up and down the breakwater. The chief mate thus directed the bosun to adjust the tension on the backspring. The main engine was also momentarily put astern to arrest her forward motion. However, at about 2224, Cielo di Tocopilla was pounded by heavy swell causing her to surge and heave. The sudden load brought on by the wave caused the backspring to part. The whiplash of the mooring rope section remaining on board struck the bosun on his right leg.

Arrangement of mooring lines and position of mooring crew on forecastle deck

It was reported that the bosun had sustained light cracking of the skin on the right calf. Although it was stated that the crew member was working during the days following the accident and was feeling fine, the master eventually requested a visit to a medical doctor ashore to ascertain himself of the medical condition. On 31 March, a medical examination was carried out in Valparaiso, Chile and diagnosed hematoma of the right thigh. The crew member was declared unfit to work for six months and advised physiotherapy and evaluation by traumatology. The crew member was eventually signed off and repatriated.

According to the SMS, mooring operations must be conducted in accordance with statutory and industry guidelines. On 23 March 2016, the Company had conducted a formal risk assessment and documented controlling measures to lessen the risks. At the time of the accident, these controlling measures were effectively in force.

While the master stated that he had conducted a tool-box talk, prior to leaving Ilo, in deteriorating weather, no documentary evidence of on-board risk assessment was submitted to the MSIU. In fact, the MSIU doubts whether the master actually had enough time to organise and carry out a risk assessment.

Starboard mooring windlass/winch showing approximate position of the bosun

Actions Taken

Following the accident, the Company requested an on board extraordinary safety meeting to discuss the shipboard safety management manual section addressing mooring and unmooring operations. The safety meeting also addressed specific risk factors, including adverse weather and sea conditions. The Company has also required that extraordinary safety meetings are held on board prior to every visit to exposed ports, mooring ropes are adequate and suitable for the intended purposes, which encompasses also their inspection, maintenance and eventual replacement.


On the basis of the safety actions taken by the Company, no safety recommendations have been made.

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SourceMarine Safety Investigation Unit