Maersk will begin implementation of Snap Back Arrestor (SBA) ropes on the mooring lines used to hold vessels in place while docked in port for (un)loading. Instead of snapping back in unpredictable ways at great speed when broken, this type of rope will simply drop to the ground.

Mooring is one of the most dangerous aspects of port and vessel operations. When a mooring rope holding a docked vessel snaps, the abrupt energy release can cause the rope to whip across the dock and ship at a speed of almost 500 MPH or more than twice the speed of a NASCAR level race car.

Working closely with suppliers to solve this industry challenge – Maersk chose a Norwegian-based manufacturer called Timm Ropes. This company offers new mooring rope technology which features a special core that elongates more than the surrounding rope, acting to absorb and dampen the tremendous energy released when mooring ropes break while under strain. A broken SBA rope will simply drop to the ground.

The new ropes are also colored with blue color stripe, making it easier for operators to spot any damage or twists in the rope that could affect breakage. This is another important visual feature developed to enhance the safety of people working in the industry.

Fleet implementation in five years

Once the SBA concept was verified by snap tests at the Timm Ropes manufacturing facility, several Maersk vessels were enrolled in a nine-month pilot project in 2019 to ensure the rope’s operational conditions, alongside traditional mooring ropes, using vessels of various sizes.

Each year Maersk buys and replaces some 1000 mooring ropes – an annual expense of nearly two million US dollars. Traditional mooring ropes have a five-year lifespan and Maersk will be implementing an exchange programme in which their current, high quality mooring ropes will be replaced at the end of their lifecycle with SBA enhanced ropes at a pace which also reflects the supply and availability.

Full fleet implementation of the new SBA ropes is planned to be completed within five years.

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