When yachts come into port, they tend attract a large crowd of spectators. But during docking procedures, there are always heavy lines being passed to shore, which if mistakenly hit a bystander, could cause serious injury. The Crew Report recently covered an incident report involving motoryacht Jemasa and a docking attempt that caused two bystander fatalities. In this instance the two onlookers were killed by recoiling ropes and/or flying debris and if they weren’t standing nearby the casualties would certainly have never happened, so the possibility of casualties during docking is very much real.

Speaking to Owain Rowlands, first officer on board motoryacht Ulysses, he expressed his concerns about mooring procedures. “We need to pass a line ashore and we have to first send a heaving line which has a monkey’s fist attached to it. This has a large amount of weight on it and I am sure if it hit someone it could seriously cause some damage,” he says. “Should ports do more to corner off areas when yachts come in so persons don’t stand directly behind when yachts are tying up? And if we were to hit someone on the dock just a tourist who is going to take the blame the port you the deckhand that threw the line the yacht?”

Credit: Ed Holt

This query is something that even the flag states are reiterating. In the report of the Jemasa incident, The Cayman Islands Ship Registry expressed their concerns. “Mooring operations are potentially dangerous situations where large amounts of stored energy can be instantaneously released if mooring equipment fails,” the report explained. “This can result in serious injury and death so persons not involved in the mooring operation should be kept at a safe distance until the operation is complete. It is perhaps worth consideration for crew to liaise with the marina authorities to prevent any unnecessary persons within the vicinity of the mooring operation.”

So should marinas take more of a role in ensuring safe mooring operations? We heard from Tony Browne, marina director at Porto Montenegro, about the issue. "The safety considerations during the arrival of a large yacht for both the marina staff, and public is an important consideration'" Browne explains. "Having the correct procedures and training in place is the best way to avoid an accident. At Porto Montenegro, we provide berthing assistance to all arriving and departing yachts. We reduce the number of berthing areas the public can access, and those areas with public access are controlled by our 24-hour security team who assist the marina staff by ensuring the public is kept clear of the area during berthing procedure."

“Mooring operations are potentially dangerous situations where large amounts of stored energy can be instantaneously released if mooring equipment fails.” - The Cayman Islands Shipping Registry

Simon Harvey from Neurons 2 People Skills explains that mooring procedures should involve a lot of forethought from the crew. “A SMS should be written as to the procedures when docking; stern and side to," says Harvey. Docking is a classic place where accidents can happen for many reasons. One would be from lack of procedure, another can be when we do something regularly we easily forget how important situation awareness is and miss seeing danger areas. Also many times a captain will have to get a big yacht into a small hole (between two yachts), this just adds to places where things can become a little hectic and it attracts more spectators to deal with.”

“Should ports do more to corner off areas when yachts come in?" Harvey questions. "I would say they need to do enough to feel comfortable with the level of liability they are putting themselves in, and the same goes for the yacht and crew. Yachts can dock in very difficult situations where there is not SMS set up ashore, the people taking lines may not speak the same language and they may have very little idea of a yachts limitations or situation. The more a crew manages their end the safer the operation will be. In most cases talking to a harbor master or authority first on the radio will help everyone.”

A greater combination of effort and cooperation from crew and ports could significantly reduce potential risks during superyacht docking and, where possible, ports should consider putting in place access restrictions to the immediate vicinity of mooring operations. To join in the debate about safety during mooring procedures, please click here.

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