Several shortcomings behind mooring accident

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Almost three years ago, a chief mate was killed on a ship in Holmsund after being hit by a hawser that snapped. According to the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority, there were a number of shortcomings which contributed to the accident on the Dutch ship M/S Morraborg. 
On the morning of 3 July 2011 the cargo ship Morraborg arrived at Holmsund, Umeå. The weather was clear, but there was a fresh wind with strong gusts. The chief mate led the mooring work on a very cramped forecastle, midway between the hawse holes for the forward spring and the head lines. There is a control box there for the hawser capstan and a platform to stand on for a better view of the ship’s side. The ship was brought into position at the quay on the second attempt and a head line was landed, but the forward spring suddenly broke.
Low risk awareness
The hawser recoiled onto the deck and hit the chief mate. After repeated attempts at resuscitation, he was declared dead. The report by the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority was published in April. It stated that the accident was preceded by a number of shortcomings, such as communication between the pilot and master, the absence of a safe place to lead the mooring work and hawsers that were too elastic.
”Under Dutch law the company was obliged to make risk assessments for hazardous work procedures. But mooring had not been identified as hazardous work in the risk inventory that had been made. This indicates a very low level of risk awareness,” says Ylva Bexell, investigator-in-charge at the Accident Investigation Authority.
According to the accident report, the deceased chief mate had been told by the master as well as an able body seaman on the deck to move to safety in connection with the mooring, yet he remained by the control unit.
”We believe that the reason he did not leave the control position is called procedural drift, or adaptation of the method to get the task done. If he had left his position he would have lost control of the entire mooring procedure and he would have had to climb over piles of ropes to get to a safe place. But choosing to stay involved a great risk,” says Ylva Bexell.
Accidents in connection with mooring are not unusual and injuries are often serious. Ylva does not think that this is taken seriously enough.
”Mooring accidents are too much of an accepted risk in the industry. We need international rules for how to design ships so that the crew can moor them without the risk of being hit by a hawser that breaks.”
Ylva Bexell points out that there are other measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of injury. Among other things, purchasing the right mooring gear, routinely replacing worn hawsers and regularly checking and adjusting the braking capacity of winches all help.
”The hawser that broke on the Morraborg was very elastic and had a relatively low breaking strength. With a less elastic hawser, there would not have been the same recoil when it snapped.”
The Accident Investigation Authority has sent a summary of its recommendations to the company. They now have three months in which to respond. The report can be read in its entirety, both in Swedish and English, at

Linda Sundgren 

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