Accurately monitoring mooring lines with digital tools can influence the bottom line and increase safety, writes Samson Rope’s Kris Volpenhein and Heather Newland
Managing the health of mooring lines can provide benefits beyond the significant advantage of avoiding line failure and costly breakage incidents. Quite simply, optimising line retirement and performing routine maintenance can reduce opex while keeping crew members safe.
Mooring lines and tails are a significant investment for vessel owners and operators. While they are consumable products, they should not be treated as commodities. Mooring system performance is one of the most crucial, but overlooked, components in mooring operations.
To achieve effective rope health management starts with the line selection process; the many mission-critical details that go into operations and understanding all the details of rope design and performance can be challenging. The construction, the fibre, the coating, are all part of the performance. There are many factors beyond price that should be evaluated to address all the practical variables an owner will face in specific operations, as well as a thorough risk assessment.
Compliance is not just a regulatory issue, it is the backbone for a complete system for inspections, maintenance procedures, record-keeping, training, and reporting, critical for compliance, but also for efficient operations. With the variabilities from vessel to vessel and port to port, a comprehensive system should be implemented to make inspections more effective and the reporting and decision-making more efficient.
The rope health management plan comes in the form of scheduling and completing maintenance, considering the line’s age, equipment diameter ratios, berthing patterns, and line life targets. Once a policy is in place with the cadence of the maintenance set, various data pieces should be captured to eventually compare against residual strength testing results to fine-tune the approach over time.
In years past, having lines inspected would require a trained technician boarding the vessel, completing a visual inspection, and submitting a report. The industry needs to look to new solutions. In 2018, Samson launched Icaria for Mooring, a digital mooring rope data collection and analysis platform. In 2021, Samson plans to make additional improvements to the system to reduce crew time further and improve efficiency. With a remote, digital approach, Samson can increase touchpoints, so a rope’s condition is more easily accessible at any time to all stakeholders. This approach also supports incident prevention by ensuring that mooring lines are always fit for use, and operators can make better decisions on extended service life – or avoid unknowingly using a rope that needs repair or discard.
The impact of a rope parting can be significant both in terms of safety and expense. Proactive monitoring and proper analysis of the line’s condition will help avoid line failure and provide data for safe line retirement decisions.
Rope health management will offer consistency in line maintenance and management. It improves efficiency on board by changing what was pen and paper to a digitalised solution. A well-designed program reduces operational risk and improves reliability in the product through consistent monitoring.
Imagine the benefits of being able to identify a questionable segment of rope while departing a port, having the ability to immediately reference detailed product-specific training materials, and submitting the findings to Samson for confirmation right away. Being able to address anomalies in the field before arriving at the next port is a significant benefit for all stakeholders, from operators to crew members to port authorities.
A lot is being done in the market with new technology, data collection, and usage tracking. While there are many technologies designed to collect data from sensors or gadgets, it is essential to translate the data into meaningful information that can be utilised to enable better decision making at the point of use.
Being a first mover in digital mooring has allowed Samson more time to evaluate the system and learn from the system’s customer feedback – and others. Samson is launching a new, improved, and expanded product package, which includes even easier methods for data collection and analysis. Users will be able to combine inspections, tracking, monitoring, reporting, and line history into a unified set of tools.
Most vessels in the global fleet operate on low bandwidth VSAT internet connectivity. This creates challenges for general communication, let alone detailed data submission or modern content like training videos. To address this Samson has designed its digital tools as offline-capable, or offers low bandwidth options to reduce internet requirements.
Functions are now transitioning to digital platforms that users can access via phone, tablet, or computer. Training should also be accessible through a multitude of methods.
Samson aims to build interfaces that are intuitive enough to use without training. But this does not cover the general information required to manage lines efficiently and safely. Understanding general aspects such as equipment surface preparation, proper line installation, line handling, and wear-zone management are imperative to safe line handling. Additionally, decision makers can gain access to more robust training materials related to line specifications and how industry guidelines, such as MEG4, affect their daily operations (these are all topics covered in Samson’s online CLASSROOM).
If a vessel can hire a specialist to provide a detailed inspection on the mooring lines, why should they invest in more tools, training, and processes for crew adoption? Having a specialist on board is beneficial for more comprehensive maintenance activities, such as repairs and thorough line analysis. Reliance on a specialist’s visits and not training crew ignores the issue that lines can change after each port/terminal visit. Crew members need the training to identify changes in rope condition. Enabling crew members with the knowledge and power to say something and quickly consult the rope manufacturer will decrease the chance of an incident. Going a step further to log line damage in their digital systems will allow all involved to learn from the situation.
Heather Newland is business director, commercial marine, Samson Ropes
Kris Volpenhein is vice president of R&D, Samson Ropes