Unsafe boarding during unmooring operation

What happened?

A vessel was departing from port when crew found it necessary to remove the mooring lines from the shoreside bollards with no safe un-boarding/boarding arrangements in place – instead clambering over the side (CCTV capture shown below).  A standard unmooring process (using shore-based support) had been discussed with the team involved during the pre-task briefing/toolbox talk.

What went wrong?

Immediately before starting the unmooring operation, the port authorities informed the vessel that the ‘shoreside linesmen’ were not available.  As a further consequence, the mooring lines were not recovered quickly enough, resulting in an entanglement into a stern thruster.

What were the causes?

  • Failure to follow company operating procedures and internal HSSE rules;
  • Ineffective assessment of risks before starting work;
  • Failure to effectively recognise and manage the safety risks associated with the change to the planned activity (failure to manage change);
  • No-one stopped the job (stop work authority).

What actions were taken?

  • The fouled mooring line was removed/cleared from the thruster;
  • Reinforcement and raising awareness of:
    • existing company rules on safety including the obligation of all employees to ‘speak up/step in’ if they see an unsafe act and/or condition
    • the importance of dynamic risk assessment and management of change (MoC)
    • the relevant sections of Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seafarers (COSWP)
    • fleet level risk assessment and management procedures
    • fleet level vessel mooring/unmooring procedures;
  • There was a visit by senior management and discussion with the team involved.

What lessons were learned?

  • Vessel crew should not act as linesmen for their own vessel;
  • Contingency plans should be developed in advance for this type of routine activity;
  • Changes to any activity should be effectively risk assessed and managed using the MoC process.