9th October 2023

Contact with ground lines while departing a repair berth

Initial Report

The reporter informed CHIRP of an incident during departure from the berth.

The vessel was med-moored (berthed stern-to) in a challenging location. It was positioned between another yacht on the port side and a dock of small sailing vessels approximately 50 meters ahead on the starboard bow. The departure manoeuvre required careful controlling, with only 1 meter of clearance on either side and numerous ground lines present.

During the departure, the starboard stabiliser fin snagged a ground line belonging to one of the smaller sailing vessels. This incidental contact caused a slight movement among the adjacent yachts, resulting in a slow collision between the yacht’s hull and the vessel whose ground line was entangled.

Upon realising the situation, the master held the vessel steady in an awkward position while the entangled ground line was safely removed. The shipyard was promptly contacted, and they confirmed that no evident damage was observed except for the snagged line. The stabiliser was also assessed and proved to be operational with no damage.

CHIRP Comment

The reporter informed CHIRP that a pre-departure meeting was conducted before they left the tight berth. Due to the narrowness of the berth, the proximity of the ground lines and the limited space ahead, manoeuvring took a lot of work. The reporter also mentioned that this incident marked the second time they had encountered difficulties while departing from such a tight berth.

Our Advisory Board members discussed whether additional mitigation measures might have further assisted the master and crew during the departure. These included asking the port to temporarily relocate some of the other small boats to provide more clearance or the use of mooring lines to warp the vessel until it is clear of potential hazards.

It is best practice to discuss problematic departures the port authorities, and an illustrated departure plan is very helpful in such situations. These plans must consider the vessel’s specific requirements and consider potential hazards like the presence of ground lines. Escalating the issue to the port’s management well in advance can ensure adequate attention and resources are allocated to address your (un)berthing concerns effectively.

CHIRP emphasises the significance of thorough planning, clear communication, and situational awareness when manoeuvring in and out of challenging berths. The master’s skill in positioning the vessel to allow the removal of the ground lines from the stabiliser fin played a crucial role in preventing a much worse outcome.

Key Issues relating to this report

Local Practices – Engage with port authorities: employ open communication and, when appropriate, seek assistance early. If this practice is not common, challenge the status quo.

Pressure – Avoid letting pressure drive decisions. Prioritise safety above all else and avoid making decisions solely based on external pressures or tight schedules. Conduct thorough risk assessments and carefully consider the potential consequences of not exercising caution during manoeuvring operations. If a situation feels unsafe, insist on receiving support from the port before proceeding.

Teamwork – Embrace teamwork and encourage challenges: foster a culture of teamwork and collaboration among all involved personnel. Encourage team members to continuously question existing practices and propose improvements to enhance safety and efficiency. Even seemingly minor contact damage can escalate into more severe incidents, making teamwork and cooperation crucial.

  • Pressure
  • Teamwork

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