Mooring lines still cause many shipping accidents. In its latest Mars Report, The Nautical Institute describes an accident in which a crew member was struck by a messenger line. The organisation stresses that even such a relatively thin line can cause serious injury and warns to stay clear of the snap-back zone when working with lines under tension.

The Nautical Institute gathers reports of maritime accidents and near-misses. It then publishes these so-called Mars Reports (anonymously) to prevent other accidents from happening. A summary of this incident:

A bulk carrier was berthing, using a combination of ship’s and shore lines. The lines from shore were brought on board with the help of a long messenger line, which was placed on the warping drum to heave in. Once the shore line had been heaved on board, it was placed on the bitts.

At one point, one of the deck crew wanted to slacken the messenger, but unintentionally heaved the messenger line instead of slacking it. It parted and struck his legs violently. He was not standing behind the controller guards at the time, and was not looking at the winch while activating the control. Additionally, the messenger line could have been simply uncoiled manually from the warping drum without use of the winch.

Also read: ‘Safe working with mooring lines needs a turnaround in thinking’

Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • Even a 20mm messenger line can cause serious injury if it fails under tension.
  • Don’t stand in the potential “line of fire” (the so-called snap-back zone) of a line under tension.
  • When operating a winch controller, stand behind the guard structure if one is fitted.
  • Concentrate on the task, but keep your general situational awareness keen.

Also read: Dutch Safety Board: Supervising mooring cannot be combined with other duties

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202125, that are part of Report Number 343. A selection of this Report has also been published in SWZ|Maritime’s June 2021 issue. The Nautical Institute compiles these reports to help prevent maritime accidents. That is why they are also published on SWZ|Maritime’s website.

More reports are needed to keep the scheme interesting and informative. All reports are read only by the Mars coordinator and are treated in the strictest confidence. To submit a report, please use the Mars report form.