UK P&I warns of the risks associated with snap-back zones

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UK P&IUK P&I Club Risk Assessor David Nichol discusses the process of identifying and marking snap-back zones and highlights the precautions that should be taken onboard ships.

“In recent years it became common practice to mark snap-back zones on ships’ decks in the vicinity of mooring machinery, rollers and fairleads. However, industry advice with respect to identifying and marking snap-back zones came under review last year following an incident where a deck officer was seriously injured during a mooring operation when standing in a location that had not been identified as being within a snap-back danger zone.

“Chapter 26 of the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seafarers now provides advice on the matter as follows:

26.3.2 Owing to the design of mooring decks, the entire area should be considered a potential snap-back zone. All crew working on a mooring deck should be made aware of this with clear visible signage.*

26.3.3 The painting of snap-back zones on mooring decks should be avoided because they may give a false sense of security.

“In effect, the whole mooring deck may be considered a danger zone. All mooring ropes will stretch to some degree under tension and more so when constructed from synthetic fibre. When a mooring line parts under load, the sudden release of stored energy in the rope will cause it to recover its original length almost instantaneously. The two ends of the line recoil or snap-back towards or past their secured ends with great velocity and anyone standing within the snap-back zone risks serious injury or death.

“The direction of travel and area affected by a recoiling rope is in practice difficult to predict and will vary depending on a number of factors, including the particular mooring arrangement and direction of leads employed. It has therefore come to be recognised that the painting of permanent snap-back zones on mooring decks is unlikely to be appropriate for all mooring scenarios and may engender complacency in crew members.

“Of course mooring decks are working areas and it is not suggested that they become complete exclusion zones, which would be an absurdity. However, the Club recommends that the following precautions are taken onboard ships:

Risk assessments are conducted to ensure potential snap-back zones are identified, taking into account various mooring configurations that may be employed

Mooring plans should illustrate the identified snap-back hazardous zones

Prior to each operation, mooring teams should carry out a pre-mooring tool box talk to ensure all participating crewmembers are aware of the hazards of snap-back

“By raising awareness of the risks associated with snap-back, Members can ensure crewmembers are operating in a safer environment and reduce their exposure to claims.”