The updated MEG4 aims to bring clarity on condition-based monitoring of mooring lines and tails. In practice it has met with confusion. Experts look critically at the regulation and discuss possible solutions
In Riviera Maritime Media’s ‘Resolving MEG4 market confusion,’ webinar, sponsored by Lankhorst Ropes and Samson Ropes, panellists clarified why the MEG4 guidelines were introduced and emphasised the importance of testing and certification.
The confusion surrounding condition-based monitoring and the need for clarity was discussed by experts from mooring rope and regulation industry: Samson Rope’s vice president of Research & Development, Kris Volpenhein, Lankhorst Ropes’ area & wet cargo segment manager Hans-Pieter Baaij, and Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), Technical Adviser – Nautical, Capt. Sanchay Srivastava.
The introduction of MEG4 to replace MEG3 guidelines has created confusion, as shown in one of the polls in the webinar, where 55% of the attendees felt that transitioning existing ships to the new guidance was the biggest industry-wide MEG4 challenge and 30% opted for understanding rope testing certification requirements. The remainder (15%) felt that mooring system condition monitoring created issues. Overall, a confused picture emerged.
Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) technical adviser, nautical, Capt. Sanchay Srivastava sought to bring clarity by explaining the background to MEG4 and why it replaces MEG3. The change was due to an accident in 2015, when mooring lines were used to reposition an LNG carrier. The subsequent report highlighted fundamental issues regarding modern hi-tech mooring lines, their use in practice and the human issues surrounding their usage. This led to OCIMF forming a workgroup and updating the guidelines to MEG4.
Capt. Sanchay noted: “The basis of MEG4 is the core question: are we really taking the human factor into account when we consider mooring operations?” He listed a safety pyramid as:
“MEG4 is about how to manage the risk in practice,” said Capt. Sanchay. “An introduction of new tools and a new appendix to encourage a dialogue between the end user, manufacturer and shipyard.
“It actually extends beyond that, from the time the rope is selected, the time it is deployed and then in service condition, monitoring and right up to retirement, this appendix aims to encourage that dialogue and deploy products that are well suited for a particular application,” he concluded.
In another poll, over half the webinar attendees responding to what challenges crew competency brings around mooring systems, pointed to how different manufacturers provide different information and data. Samson Rope Technologies vice president of research & development Kris Volpenhein noted that the major rope manufacturers supporting the marine sector were involved in the MEG4 project and wholly support the changes, which he listed as:
The changes were not without challenges and for ships in transition from MEG3 to MEG4 the position is not always clear. “The guidance is fairly clear on what should be in place with this, but it is not prescriptive on how or when existing ships will be required to fully transition. As a result, we have noticed a wide range of operators, and even SIRE Inspectors struggle to understand the transition process resulting in divergent and varied results and outcomes on how it is being applied,” said Mr Volpenhein.
The issue with SIRE inspectors was evidenced in another poll, where over half the attendees responding felt there was inconsistency with SIRE observations in relation to mooring lines and tails. Despite this disconnect between users and inspectors, webinar attendees were fully on board with MEG4, with 80% responding MEG4 was important to them.
Lankhorst Ropes area & wet cargo segment manager Hans-Pieter Baaij presented on one of the aspects creating confusion in the marketplace – certification. “Do not underestimate the importance of proper testing and certification,” he said. “The MEG4 certification helps the operator find the right product for the usage, and to make it possible to compare ropes with each other if they have followed the test program as recommended by OCIMF MEG4.”
The problem, he noted, starts when third-party bodies are stating on the first page of the certificates that ropes comply with the MEG4, then on the next pages of that same certificate, reservations are made. He emphasised that studying all the pages of the certificate is of main importance.
Showing a redacted certificate, he said: “In this example, it was decided by a fellow rope producer to reduce the endurance test to 90% [of the test cycle]. Besides eroding the safety aspect, it will also make it impossible to compare the performance indicators of the products with each other.”
Next to this, he said statements on factory work certificates which include phrases like “pending type approval” and “to be advised” may look nice, but are questionable when that vendor cannot produce a statement from the class society that the tests are really in progress.
Has MEG4 had an impact on the industry? Polling of delegates attending the event suggested it had, with over 60% responding it had changed their line selection process. But there is still confusion out there. Nearly 10% replied that MEG4 had brought about no change in their line selection process.
What are the takeaways the experts can offer from the webinar? (OCIMF), Technical Adviser – Nautical, Capt. Sanchay Srivastava said: “MAIB investigated that incident (which was a driving force for MEG4) and categorised it as a serious marine casualty, which led to significant life-changing injuries to one of my colleagues. It is not an easy thing to digest. I think if we can at least work towards preventing, reducing, and hopefully one day eliminating these incidents collectively, I think MEG4 has achieved its goal.”
Samson Rope’s vice president of Research & Development, Kris Volpenhein said: “Everything in the MEG4 book and beyond should be focussed on user safety. It is important to re-iterate that change is hard. It is also important and a good thing these discussions are happening and these confusions are not just brushed to the side and we start to raise critical questions. From a rope manufacturer’s perspective the one key element is that there is not really a single harmonised code for mooring system design. It seems that MEG4 is the starting of a process pushing for that. If you overlay that with criticality in the role that mooring ropes play in the mooring system, it creates a very challenging situation from the get-go. Seafarers have for a long time managed that criticality, the ships have gotten bigger and it has become more important that these things are in place and maintenance is well understood and operated and that safety happens at the point of use.”
Lankhorst Ropes’ Mr Baaij noted that MEG4 is a complicated document and that the market needs time to digest it and implement MEG4. He said: “We (Lankhorst) are reaching out to support owners and operators. We have completed the certification to the MEG4 requirement and we also have a mooring line management system. MEG4 is designed to improve the crew safety. It helps the vessel owner and operator make a better rope purchase decision. The key question is: “Is the rope fully tested to MEG4?” It pays to be curious and ask rope manufacturers and suppliers questions. We are there to help you with the risk analysis and achieve the best possible result.”
In summary, while MEG4 may not be as prescriptive as some might desire, the confusion is creating a dialogue between users, the rope manufacturers, and shipyards. All the participants of this webinar are making themselves available with the aim of resolving the confusion by reaching out to support the industry.
The experts answer your questions
After the ‘Resolving MEG4 market confusion,’ webinar, the experts answered a variety of questions:
Question: What is the one single thing that rope manufacturers or vessel operators could do that would most help resolve confusion regarding MEG4 requirements ?
KV | Integrate education and training all the way down to the crew and provide tools that address the key points at the point of use (e.g. inspection decision making, usage tracking, etc)
HPB | Lankhorst gives trainings and has a mooring rope manual on request.
SS | Refer MEG4 and engage in a dialogue with each other.
Question | What is the level of collaboration with the shipbuilders, with regards to mooring arrangement of ships, both existing and those built prior MEG4?
Samson’s Kris Volpenhein (KV) | This is an under-resourced area of ship and mooring system design and it is important to look at optimising the process, but the multitude of stakeholders made this a difficult process.
Lankhorst Ropes’ Hans-Pieter Baaij (HPB) | Lankhorst Ropes is working with shipbuilders to come to the best arrangements.
OCIMF’s Capt. Sanchay Srivastava (CC) | MEG4 represents best known mooring technology and practice. Importantly, it also reflects the move by industry and regulators towards human-centred design principles, a systems approach to mooring equipment in general and a more holistic application to selection, inspection, maintenance, and retirement of mooring lines. This should drive a more open dialogue between respective stakeholders as compared to pre-MEG4 times.
Question | From a sailor’s point of view, it is sometimes very difficult to convince SIRE inspectors due to their limited understanding of MEG4, which in turn results in inspection remarks. How is OCIMF trying to clear this confusion?
SS | OCIMF website is getting updated with FAQs to further help industry towards improving understanding of MEG4. SIRE inspectors are included in internal bulletins and receive refresher training where credible feedback is addressed.
Question | More and more rope manufacturers are creating "fake" MEG4 certificates without the third-party stamp but using their own stamp. Feedback from vessels is that vetting inspectors are accepting any certificate where MEG4 is mentioned. What is done in order to avoid this happening in the industry?
KV | Report this to OCIMF: this is partly why MEG4 was introduced, to tighten up on standards for rope specifications and avoid low-cost solutions that are not designed for the application but can appear to be "sufficient" when looking at just strength specifications. We at Samson see the relevance of "unendorsed" MEG4 certificates for legacy rope products that may be used in mooring, but have not undergone all of the new testing. However, these should never have fake stamps or fake data.
HPB | In our opinion not enough. There should be better control of the content of the MEG4 certificates.
SS | Refer to MEG4, that is clear in terms of recommendations being made. It comes down to how much emphasis organisations place on mooring safety and whether practices being referred to are being challenged or not. Vessels stand a risk of getting rejected by respective vetting organisations or receiving terminals if any signs of fake certification are picked up.