Real Life Incident: Mooring Boat Crushed And Sinks

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A chemical tanker was manoeuvring starboard side to berth with tug assistance. No currents were acting on the vessel and winds were very light. Two tugs were in position on the port side and a mooring boat was assisting with lines on the starboard side. The forward spring lines were delivered to the mooring boat but as the boat manoeuvred toward the berth to deliver the lines it came between the jetty and the tanker and was snagged by a hole in the berth wall.

The two tugs were now pushing the tanker toward the berth and the distance between the mooring boat, the tanker and the berth was quickly closing.

Mooring boat in unsafe position
Credits: nautinst.org
The Master became aware of the situation with the mooring boat and informed the pilot. The tug boats were ordered to hold the vessel off the jetty and the bow thruster was also engaged to push away from the berth. Unfortunately, these desperate measures were too late as the mooring boat was pinched between the vessel and the jetty. The mooring boat operator, who was alone on the boat, was safely evacuated but the mooring boat sank.

The company investigation found, among other things, that:

The level of communication and coordination between the mooring boat and the pilot was inadequate.
The mooring boat was operated by a single person (both operating the boat and handling the ropes) and this could have led to the loss of precious time in warning the pilot and vessel.
Lessons learned

While berthing, always keep a sharp eye on your surroundings to ensure an unimpeded and safe manoeuvre.
As the crew of an assisted vessel, we are powerless to influence how assisting vessels are operated. Yet, if we remain vigilant and maintain a robust situational awareness serious consequences may be avoided.