Marine fibre ropes form an integral part of all shipboard operations. From making the vessel fast at jetty to securing and lifting objects and from taking manual soundings using hand lead lines to to hoisting the flags, marine ropes have many usage. One cannot think of running the ships without them.
Marine ropes comes in various materials and sizes incorporating various properties and usage. Every marine rope encountered on board will have a certain property which will make it fit for a certain kind of use. In this topic we will talk about the Mooring ropes. Mooring ropes are expensive and therefore requires proper care, maintenance, inspection, handling and storage. Best practices can help them run safely for longer periods of time.
Seldom I have come across that proper supervision, maintenance and inspection is being carried out for such an important element of shipboard operations I.e. ropes. Although company’s PMS will consists of a Monthly Mooring Ropes maintenance record but hardly they are inspected and maintained.
On few instances the ship officers are quite familiar with the procedure of proper care of the mooring ropes but still they would hardly put an effort to do the real checks while in few cases, the concerned officers are not aware only. Whatever the case may be, cutting corners and sheer oversight have resulted in many accidents and fatalities onboard where the cause have been ascertained as poor condition of ropes and lack of care and maintenance.
In this topic, I would not get into the various types of marine ropes simply because most of us know about it as it forms the basis of our training at sea. However, if you still want me to write about them, of if you have any specific questions you can leave your comments below.
In this topic, I would try highlighting the various aspects of proper care and maintenance of mooring ropes used onboard.
Only the rope with proper specifications (intended to use for a particular purpose) shall be ordered. Particular attention shall be given to the size, material and SWL of the rope. On one instance, wrong Mooring hawsers were ordered – SWL of which was not in line with the Brake rendering capacity of the Mooring Winches in use! For more clarity you can read the topic on Mooring Winch Brake testing procedure on ships here.
Every rope onboard, shall be carefully inspected, both internally and externally. Especially, look-out for the powdering between the strands – this is a sign of excessive wear. The ropes shall be twisted in opposite directions using both hands and carefully examined inside for wear and tear.
Most importantly – store the ropes away from the direct sunlight and keep them covered by canvas if the ropes are required to be stored out in the open (such as mooring rope on drums). A canvas cover which can be readily fitted over the mooring drum containing the mooring lines is one of the best ways to prevent deterioration of mooring ropes which are susceptible to damage by the sun and sea and owing to any reason (short voyage or lack of space) for which it cannot be stored inside.
Most of the ropes are susceptible to damage when they are under tension. Not necessarily all mooring ropes on the ships are on mooring drums and some are loose ropes which are required to be stoppered off using a Rope Stopper. The ‘Chinese Stopper’ (also known as West Country) is the most appropriate stopper to be used to stop the mooring ropes while making fast. A rope stopper shall be of the same material as the mooring rope, which is required to be stoppered.
Never apply a Nylon stopper to a Nylon Rope.
Undue friction is the enemy of the rope. This is because friction generates heat and heat damages the rope. While picking up the loose rope through warping drums keep at most 3 turns and clear out the turn quickly. More turns shall only be taken if the rope is slipping
A common situation which damages the rope very frequently is the problem of ‘chaffing’ whilst the vessel is alongside and surging. The classic way of preventing this is putting canvas and grease on the part of the rope experiencing chaffing. Another way which i came across was crew putting piece of plastic pipe around the section of the rope. However, the problem is due to regular surge the pipe section comes off in some time, if not attended regularly. Usage of standard chafe protection products shall be considered if the vessel is regularly calling the ports where constant surging and chaffing of ropes is encountered. Whatever may be the way, the idea should be to prevent chaffing of the ropes
The ropes shall always be stored on a wooden grating good enough to prevent water stagnation and direct contact with the deck shall be prevented
Rope tails connected to the Ropes shall be kept in ideal condition and changed regularly
The eye of the Mooring hawsers shall always be protected with canvas. Normally, new ropes are provided with a canvas, older ropes tend to loose canvas cover with time. Ensure such covers are restored at first opportunity.
An important way to lengthen the life of mooring rope is to ensure that it does not come in contact with seawater especially during mooring operations. Moorings shall be slackened, as far as practicable, just enough so that they remain above the water surface. However, this is not always practical, esp in ports where the lines are passed using boat.
Unfit ropes shall be discarded and shall not be used.