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Web Alert: United States Coast Guard issues new circular on dangers of marine bollard failure

31 May 2018

The USCG has issued a new circular on the potential dangers and risks to ship owners and operators of marine bollard failure.

This web alert outlines the key features of the circular and provides brief comment from the club.

Causes of marine bollard failure

The circular explains that there have recently been a number of shore side marine bollard failures in US ports where, as a result, vessels were cast adrift. A number of potential causes of these failures are identified as follows:

⦁ Rotting of organic bollards made of marine pilings;

⦁ undetected fracture of bollard castings due to manufacturer defects; ​

⦁ damage from previous overloads;

⦁ degradation of bollard foundations / fasteners; and

⦁ ​Failure to follow good marine mooring practices due to insufficient bollards.

The circular explains that "typically, the failures are associated with abnormal dynamic loads transferred to the bollard from a vessel.. oftentimes caused by excessive winds acting against the sail area of vessel.”

USCG recommendations

As detailed by the USCG circular, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NAVAL Facilities Engineering Command and Air Force Civil Engineering Support Agency has issued a handbook providing “naval facilities guidance for the planning, inspection, assessment, and reporting of mooring hardware conditions.” The USCG encourages shore side facility personnel to use this handbook.

The USCG also recommends both facility owners and ship owners / operators develop “routine inspection programs” for bollards and other mooring equipment.

Finally, the Coast Guard recommends that vessel personnel should report deficient mooring equipment to facility managers.

Club comment

The potential for marine bollard failure increases the risk of the vessel coming into contact with third party structures/objects and being involved with collisions with other vessels that are close by at the relevant berth.

These incidents can lead to physical damage to the vessel and potentially large/expensive third party claims (e.g. damage to berth/ship; loss of use etc.) being made against the vessel/the ship owner’s P&I club.

The club accordingly recommends that vessel personnel maintain awareness of the potential for marine bollard failure.

Particular care should be taken in times of high wind or heavy weather, where dynamic loads/stress acting on bollards are likely to be greater.

When bollards are visibly in a poor condition or state of repair, vessel personnel are encouraged to raise their concerns/objections with relevant facility managers, and to act appropriately to make sure that mooring does not take place on bollards which are likely to fail.

This will assist to reduce the exposure of the vessel to the risks described above.