Industry Amends Joint Notice on Dangerously Weighted Heaving Lines

Published: Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - 11:03

This page concerns the reissue of the joint industry statement on dangerously weighted heaving lines (DWHL), first published in July 2019. The statement was amended in March 2021 to reflect changes made to the procedure for reporting to the MCA. It was previously the case that reports of dangerously weighted heaving lines were to be submitted to the local Marine Office and the central Navigational Safety mailbox.

This instruction should be considered out of date, as the 2021 statement makes clear that all reports should be sent to the local Marine Office only. As of 17/03/21, all information presented on this page should be considered correct and current with PSS and joint industry standards. 

heaving lines


The British Ports Association, British Tugowners Association, Port Skills and Safety, UK Chamber of Shipping, UK Harbour Masters Association, UK Major Ports Group, UK Maritime Pilots Association, and Workboat Association hereby jointly issue a notice against the continued illegal use of Dangerously Weighted Heaving Lines (DWHL) in UK ports and harbours.

Joint sign


The use of DWHL is a significant concern to the maritime community, as exemplified by report of their use in the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) Digest 2/2020 as included as Annex A. The use of DWHL, when thrown by ship’s crew passing mooring ropes or retrieving a messenger line, is dangerous and has caused serious injury. DWHL are a significant safety hazard and have the potential to cause serious or fatal injury and cannot be an accepted activity in UK ports and harbours. Indeed, instances could lead to a fine or criminal prosecution of a ship’s master.

International and domestic codes are clear and unambiguous on the construction and weight of heaving lines.

The Code of Safe Working Practice (CoSWP) 2020 Amendment, Section 26.3.5 states:

“To prevent personal injury to those receiving heaving lines, the ‘monkey’s fist’ should be made with rope only and must not contain added weighting material. Safe alternatives include a small high-visibility soft pouch, filled with fast-draining pea shingle or similar, with a weight of not more than 0.5 kg. Under no circumstances is a line to be weighted by items such as shackles, bolts or nuts, or twist locks.”

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Code of Practice – Safety and Health in Ports, Section 6.13, Mooring Operations, Para 357 states:

“A “monkey’s fist” at the end of a heaving line should only be made of rope. Additional weights should never be added to it.”

The signatories call for ship owners, managers, agents, port operators and pilots to assist in eradicating the use of DWHL by the following:

1) Informing all incoming vessels of their duty to follow the Code of Safe Working Practices (COSWP) 2) Issuing them with MCA Safety Bulletin No.

2 – Annex B

3) Stressing that fines, Port State Control Inspections, and criminal prosecution are likely, especially should a vessel persist in their use.

All stakeholders can play an important role in preventing the use of anything other than a rope monkey’s fist or alternative soft safety pouch. By promoting and raising the issue with all parties with a vested interest bad practice can be eliminated.

The agreed procedure for reporting incidents involving DWHL to the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) for enforcement action for both UK flagged, and nonUK flagged vessels is at Annex C.


For full information, please check the file attached below.


Joint Industry Second Notice Against DWHLs - March 2021 PDF (512.67 KB) Download (512.67 KB)