202429 Line breaks six times – when is enough enough?

24 May 2024 MARS

A tanker had moored to a single point mooring (SPM) buoy ready to start discharging operations. A tug was used aft to apply tension on the vessel and keep it in line with the predominant swell during the discharging operation. Wind and swell were coming from astern and were just within the maximum agreed conditions so discharging operations were started.

Over the next 40 hours of discharging, the tug’s line to the tanker broke six times. Each time a break occurred the discharging was halted and another line was installed. Then discharge operations continued. At no time did the tanker’s Master question the mooring Master’s decision to continue the discharging operation or to stop work and re-evaluate the conditions or the assumptions on which past decisions were made.

Lessons learned

  • Luckily, no injuries were sustained during these incidents. Hindsight being 20/20, it seems clear in retrospect that after several line failures (3?, 4?) a decision to delay the discharge should have been taken by the vessel’s Master or the mooring Master.
  • When bad outcomes happen, investigate – ask why! At a minimum, reevaluate the conditions of work.