A vessel berthed at a terminal and some port personnel noticed that one of the monkey fists used on a heaving line was particularly heavy. It was later found to be an unsafe improvisation by one of the crew.

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:

The monkey fist was inspected, and it was discovered that although the outer casing was made from rope, the inner core was of compacted sand surrounding a large steel nut contained within a cotton casing. The total weight was 740 g.

The vessel and company were advised and there was an internal investigation. It transpired that the vessel had five other heaving lines with monkey fists on inventory. After testing with a metal detector no metal parts were found and all weighed less than 500 g, which is an accepted maximum limit according to best practice and certain codes. It would appear a crew member had made the monkey fist on his own initiative, and this escaped supervision or detection.

Also read: Improvised monkey’s fist can throw a wicked punch

The company took the initiative to have all monkey fists replaced by a sachet type, as illustrated. The sachets are made from old fire hoses, filled only with sand, and weigh about 400 g. This format allows easy auditing to check for heavy (metallic) objects inside. Also, warnings were posted near mooring stations on the specifications of monkey fists, with the hope of maintaining awareness on board.

A monkey fist made of old fire hose filled with sand.

Advice from The Nautical Institute

Safety can slip in many ways, sometimes even because of the best of intentions. Constant attention to detail and strong safety leadership are the key to keeping a safe course.

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202219, that are part of Report Number 355. A selection of this Report was also published in SWZ|Maritime’s June 2022 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.

Also read: Maritime Safety Guide maps safety and security risks for seafarers