Maersk employs new rope design to make mooring safer

When a mooring rope holding a docked vessel snaps, the rope can whip across the dock and ship at almost 500 mph — more than twice the speed of a race car.

Mooring is one of the most dangerous pieces of port and vessel operations. In one case, a 602-foot bulk carrier fully loaded with petroleum coke ran aground in California after breaking free from its moorings.

To help hold vessels in place, Maersk has begun installing Snap Back Arrestor (SBA) ropes on the mooring lines.

Maersk chose Norwegian manufacturer TIMM ROPES, which offered a new kind of mooring rope, one with a special core that elongates more than the surrounding rope, absorbing the energy released when breaking under strain. Instead of snapping back at great speed, a broken SBA rope simply drops to the ground. The new ropes also are colored with a Maersk blue stripe, making it easier for operators to spot any damage or twists in the rope.

After snap tests were conducted at the TIMM ROPES manufacturing facility, several Maersk vessels took part in a nine-month pilot last year.

Each year Maersk replaces about 1,000 mooring ropes, an expense of nearly $2 million annually. Traditional mooring ropes have a five-year lifespan and Maersk will begin replacing them with the SBA-enhanced ropes. Full fleet implementation is expected within five years.

“This new technology and innovative approach enables us to safely transform the mooring rope approach in our industry and help lead by example to protect our seafarer community and our dockworkers ashore,” said Aslak Ross, Maersk’s head of marine standards.

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