PSS Members Take Action : Spotlight on Self Mooring Fatalities

Published: Thursday, October 1, 2020 - 10:49

PSS was established with the mandate to work with the industry to promote and improve health and safety within the ports sector. As part of that mandate, the PSS tripartite Safety in Ports (SiP) documents have long served as a driving force for change in our Industry. Unfortunately, due to recent maritime fatalities associated with self-mooring, PSS have returned to our current Safety in Ports (SiP) Guidance 005 Mooring Operations to address self-mooring. Joining us in this task are the UK Harbour Masters Association (UKHMA), Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Unite the Union, as well as multiple employers with a desire to raise standards.

Access and egress from vessels during self-mooring is considered potentially dangerous. The Marine Accident Investigation Board (MAIB) has investigated at least three maritime fatalities associated with self-mooring within a span of four and a half years;  Cherry Sand, Millgarth and Moira.


Cherry Sand


Summary - Cherry Sand

On 28th February 2019, the master of Cherry Sand climbed over the vessel’s bulwark and onto the rubber band in readiness to step ashore as part of a self-mooring operation in Scotland. As the chief officer was still manoeuvring the dredger towards the berth, the master took a single step towards the quayside. Unfortunately, Cherry Sand was still too far away from its berth and the master missed the quayside, striking chains and concrete with force before falling between the quay wall and the vessel. He was crushed between the still moving dredger and the jetty before slipping into the water. The master was wearing a lifejacket and the ship’s crew were able to recover him from the water, however his injuries were too severe and he could not be revived.


The tug Millgarth


Summary - Millgarth

At 17:49 on 27 January 2019, the chief engineer of the tug Millgarth released the mooring lines from her berth at an oil terminal in the north of England. While attempting to re-board the tug, the chief engineer fell into the river. His lifejacket automatically inflated on entering the water, allowing his crewmates to draw him alongside the vessel within five minutes. Unfortunately, the water was so cold that the chief engineer had quickly become incapacitated and lost consciousness, hindering efforts to rescue him from the river. He was recovered from the water at 18:11 by the crew of a rescue boat, but by that time the chief engineer had gone into cardiac arrest and could not be revived.


Photograph of the tug Svitzer Moira alongside


Summary - Moira

On 29th December 2015, the 29m harbour tug Svitzer Moira was being manoeuvred alongside an unmanned tug at a port in southern England, when an engineer fell between the two vessels. The MAIB investigation into the incident concluded that the engineer likely fell while attempting to transfer from one boat to the other before the Svitzer Moira had fully come alongside. Despite the best efforts of her crew in providing first-aid, and the prompt arrival of the emergency services, the engineer died at the scene.

Action Taken

In the wake of these tragedies and the May 2020 publication of the Cherry Sand report, PSS, together with UKHMA and other marine professionals, drafted a proposed amendment to SiP Guidance 005 Mooring Operations specifically addressing the access and egress of vessels during self-mooring. This was put out to consultation and received valuable feedback from stakeholders such as the MAIB. The updated amendments to self-mooring were shared in early September with the Guidance Group membership in advance of the first virtual Guidance Group meeting held on 23rd September 2020. The amended guidance was reviewed at the meeting by the group, including by representatives from across the ports sector, UKHMA, Unite the Union and was supported by Nicola Jaynes from the HSE.  

Next Steps

The revised and updated SiP 005 Guidance on Mooring is currently under final review by the HSE and will be available shortly. The document will be a valuable resource for the industry, helping with the conduct of risk assessments, job planning, accident investigations, and toolbox talks.

As we follow the tripartite due process, we would like to share early information that may help members manage the risks associated with vessel access and egress during self-mooring operations.


Main Safety Themes


On Responsibilities

  • It is the port’s responsibility to ensure that the berth is suitable for the berthing and mooring operations. This includes identification and sharing of the criteria required for mooring or self-mooring operations.  For more existing guidance and information on this please see SiP014 Guidance on Safe Access and Egress
  • The ship owner / Master has a responsibility to ensure a safe means of access and egress as defined in Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Marine Guidance Notes (MGNs). The Master should conduct their own risk assessment of the mooring operation and take into account the port facility mooring criteria, when deciding whether or not it is safe to conduct self-mooring. 

A Noteworthy Classification

A safe means of access and egress can be broadly classified into two categories with regard to the time of vessel securing -

  • Access and egress after the vessel is safely secured alongside. For more existing guidance and information on this please see SiP014 Guidance on Safe Access and Egress
  • Access and egress before the vessel is secured (eg self mooring and dropping someone off, usually from a small craft).

On Coordination and Cooperation

With special regard to access and egress from vessels during self-mooring, a joint co-operative approach should be taken where reasonably practicable between the berth operator and the vessel operator to formally identify and evaluate the shared risks of vessels being moored on berths. A safe working system must be in place where the transfer of persons between vessel and quay has to take place (include dropping someone off)

A fundamental tenet of ALL SiP guidance documents is that Cooperation and coordination between shipside and landside employers is required. Employers must therefore carry out risk assessments and develop safe systems of work (in consultation with the workers involved) that all parties agree to, so that the respective employers can co-operate effectively with each other.

PSS Operations Manager, Rean Da Costa

The updated guidance will elaborate on some joint co-operation measures that can be undertaken. We are also working with the marine regulator and stakeholders including the British Tugowners Association to ensure cohesiveness across port and marine guidance on self mooring. PSS members will be notified as soon as we complete the due process of SiP tripartite badging and an update will follow in due time.