With safety a paramount concern, Samson Rope Technologies’ Isaac Rosenberg explains how MEG4 differs to its predecessor and the actions required to maintain compliance
A year has passed since the release of the fourth edition of the Oil Companies International Marine Forum’s Mooring Equipment Guidelines (MEG4).
The guidelines were developed in response to the Zarga incident at the South Hook LNG terminal in Wales in 2015, in which a parted mooring rope struck a seafarer, resulting in a serious injury.
The Nautical Institute’s Mariners’ Alerting and Reporting Scheme (MARS) further demonstrates the fatal potential of the energy stored within mooring ropes.
In October 2018, an incident was reported in which a mooring line snapback resulted in the death of a seafarer. A vessel was in final mooring position and the mooring lines were being tightened to keep it in place when linesmen noticed they had been caught in a fender.
The officer in charge (OIC) looked over the side to assess the situation and ordered the mooring party to put more tension on the lines by heaving on the winch, while tugs assisting with the mooring pulled away. A lineman shouted to the OIC to step away from the handrail as the vessel shifted away from the fenders, which the OIC did, but stepped forward again. As the lines came free they “sprang upwards like a slingshot”, according to the MARS report. One of the lines struck the OIC on the chin, knocking him unconscious. Although quickly moved to a hospital, the OIC died as a result of his injuries.
While this incident acts as a tragic reminder of the importance of safety in mooring operations, operators must also keep on top of evolving industry standards, with Ship Inspection Report Programme (SIRE) inspectors already factoring topics covered by MEG4 into Vessel Inspection Questionnaires (VIQs).
Samson Rope Technologies’ APAC technical sales manager Isaac Rosenberg gave a crash course in how to implement the MEG guidelines and avoid comments on SIRE inspections at the Asian Tanker Conference in Singapore earlier this year.
Mr Rosenberg cantered through relevant questions from the VIQ, explaining their basis in MEG4 and how compliance can be demonstrated and observations avoided.
VIQ Mooring Section 9.1: Are certificates available for all mooring lines and wires?
Ropes have always needed certification, so this requirement should be nothing new to owners. The main thing to bear in mind is that while MEG3 used unspliced strengths, MEG4 uses a new line-designed break force, which is a different reporting measure. Mr Rosenberg advised that owners ensure they have this information to hand to show SIRE inspectors, and that if it is not documented they have a plan in place to address this, illustrating that they are aware of the revised measurement.
VIQ Mooring Section 9.2: Does the ship have a Mooring System Management Plan (MSMP)?
“The MSMP is a document detailing how you’re going to manage your mooring equipment,” explained Mr Rosenberg, adding: “It’s ship and operator specific, but there are some general guidelines in what you should include in MEG4.”
He emphasised the importance of the register aspect of the MSMP, which should be updated regularly to give an accurate picture of the components of a vessel’s mooring system.
“You can be compliant today, but you won’t be compliant in six months when the SIRE inspector comes on board [if] there’s no register to document what you’ve done between now and then,” said Mr Rosenberg.
VIQ Section 9.3/9.4: Does the ship have a line management plan? Has it been implemented?
While the MSMP is the main document looked at in MEG4 and VIQ inspections, the line-management plan (LMP) feeds information into it, said Mr Rosenberg. This plan must also be implemented, and the implementation documented, in order to avoid receiving a SIRE observation.
With older vessels that have been transferred between owners or management officers this can be particularly tricky, said Mr Rosenberg, noting that in these cases it may be difficult to get hold of information on the age of ropes and what sort of wear they have seen.
“If you don’t have information you have to start with the basics,” he said, advising inspections and testing be carried out. He also emphasised the necessity of demonstrating to SIRE inspectors that action is being taken to remedy situations where there is incomplete information on ropes.
VIQ Section 9.5: Do all mooring lines and, where fitted, mooring tails, meet industry guidelines?
Under MEG4, lines design break force (LDBF) should be 100%-105% of the ship design minimum breaking load (MBLSD), said Mr Rosenburg, and retirement should be considered at 75% of the ship design minimum breaking load. He noted that “often” customers with lines that were acceptable under MEG3 do not meet the MEG4 guidelines, again emphasising the need for documentation to demonstrate compliance to SIRE inspectors.
Tail design break force (TDBF) should be 125%-130% of the MBLSD under MEG4. Mr Rosenberg noted that MEG3 prescribed an 18-month retirement programme for tails, which has been removed in MEG4. This means that under MEG4, tails could reach 18 months and still have life left in them, but alternatively they could cease to be in compliance before 18 months. He recommended using the same kind of safety-management processes for tails as for mooring lines.
He noted an example of a vessel with an MSMP-indicated MBLSD of 125 tonnes. This vessel received an observation for having a large tail in comparison to the ship design, because its in-service tail robes had a TDBF of 187.07 tonnes, or 150% of the MBLSD.
“This was because in MEG3 it said absolutely nothing about a maximum strength for tails,” said Mr Rosenberg, noting that the downside of having an overly strong tail is that it will be stiffer in comparison to the loads it’s seeing, which is why the parameters in MEG4 are there.
VIQ Section 9.8: Are moorings satisfactorily deployed and tended?
Mr Rosenberg addressed the issue of turnarounds, noting that a customer had received an observation for having an insufficient number. MEG4 and the VIQ both specify a minimum requirement of eight, which is the traditional minimum, but Mr Rosenberg noted this may vary depending on mooring-line composition. For example, high-modulus fibres such as Dyneema tend to be slicker and require more wraps.
He noted that even for wires there will be some sort of recommendation for the minimum number of turns, so this should be factored in to the line management plan, and if it isn’t then operators must be prepared to explain why the recommended minimum is not being used. For example, mixed-fibre ropes may typically have a lower number of turns because they are generally wider.
VIQ Mooring Section 9.12: If mooring tails are fitted to wires or HMSF lines, do they have proper connections and are they correctly fitted?
In addressing this question, Mr Rosenberg recommended using cow hitches to connect mooring tails. He noted that Samson and other high-performance rope manufacturers recommend using cow hitches over shackles, saying: “It is safer because you don’t have a big heavy piece of metal that – if the line does part – becomes very dangerous.
“Secondly, the tails and the ropes are often dragged along the deck because of the weight of the shackle. So you can remove some wear and tear on your crew and the ropes.”
VIQ Mooring Section 9.17: Are mooring wires, lines, synthetic tails and connecting apparatus in good order?
Observations on this question can be avoided by ensuring crew are properly trained, and that inspections and retirement criteria are documented in the vessel’s LMP, said Mr Rosenberg.
He cited an example of a customer who had received observations for two Samson lines on a vessel being in poor condition. Although Samson and the customer determined that the ropes were within safe working criteria, the owner did not have documentation to demonstrate this to the inspector when questioned on the ropes’ condition.
“The two things that needed to happen there were crew training, and ensuring the information is in a line management plan [so it can be shown to inspectors],” said Mr Rosenberg.
China LNG has worked with Samson to exceed MEG4’s requirements on its fleet of six LNG vessels.
“We worked closely with them to help align their MEG4 requirements, but also go beyond that and improve some of their safety requirements,” said Mr Rosenberg.
“So far it’s gone really well for them, and we are expecting it to be an opportunity for them to not only prevent SIRE observations, but also improve the safety on the vessel and reduce some of the operating costs.
“MEG4 has been a burden for many of us working through the process, but opens the door for us to reduce costs by reducing unexpected failures and improving line life,” he added.
MEG4 compliance: a case study
Japanese shipping company K Line worked with rope manufacturer Samson to implement a plan to bring mooring operations and line management into compliance with MEG4. The details were presented at a conference on ship-to-shore technology organised by TST publisher Riviera Maritime Media at the end of 2018.
K Line marine superintendent Jonathan Heath and Samson Rope technical sales manager Robin Collett explained how to bring operations in line with MEG4 and foster the kind of safety-first culture needed to avoid accidents.
MEG4 displays a strong emphasis on selection, maintenance and retirement of mooring lines, and how they interface with deck equipment, explained Mr Collett. Lines are seen as a critical component of mooring systems, from design to retirement, rather than a commodity. The guidance clarifies terminology and establishes a procurement framework, and provides guidance on establishing mooring system management plans, comprising a line management plan, augmented by planned maintenance and safety management systems.
“You cannot have a ship-to-shore interface without robust mooring and you cannot operate a ship without an empowered crew,” said Mr Collett.
Addressing a question on the risk of snapbacks, Mr Heath said: “We have to make sure everyone is clear of any potential for ricochet, snapback or bouncing off something else.
We don’t know exactly how the ropes are going to react under every given circumstance, so we’ve got to educate the crews more and train them."
Mr Collett added: “There are arguments that there is no safe mooring line because obviously the tail is the part which absorbs the energy.
“Part of the line management plan every ship operator is writing, is to encourage the crew to be very cautious about standing anywhere near a mooring line – in fact, they should not be standing near a mooring line.”
He concluded: “We encourage people to be aware that mooring lines possibly can snap back, so do not go anywhere near them during a mooring operation.”