Quay Crane Safety Issues

  • Date: 03/12/2015

Port Strategy Article – Opinion Piece – November 2015
Laurence Jones – Director Global Risk – TT Club

The quayside crane is the most essential piece of equipment on any berth: without it, the whole operation would simply grind to a halt. It is also the biggest single equipment procurement cost for a terminal operator. Unfortunately it is also the biggest single cause of insurance claim costs. .

The TT Club, in its position as the leading provider of insurance and related risk management services to the cargo handling industry globally, is well placed to provide observations on terminal claims. The TT Club claims analysis for the last five years (2010-2014) shows that quay crane claims were 25% of the cost of all TT Club terminal operators’ claims. This figure is more than twice that of any other individual claim cause category including property and liability claims.

While new cranes are getting bigger and more technically advanced, they, in common with many existing cranes, do not have basic systems that can prevent most of these claims. Most accidents result from operational factors, which are avoidable at the design stage, or from major structural failures that could be obviated by a careful maintenance regime. Not only can quay crane failure be very costly in terms of repairs and operational downtime; it can result in serious injuries and even loss of life.

Quay crane “boom-to-ship collisions” can be totally prevented with the installation of electronic boom anti-collision sensors. For an investment of around Euro 20,000 per crane this device alone can save millions in damage as well as injuries and downtime.  However, due to price sensitivity, crane manufacturers often do not provide boom anti-collision as standard or offer a low-cost trip wire mechanism that does not provide adequate protection. The most effective systems are laser based, such as are supplied by Sick Technologies (www.sick.com). However, these must be installed correctly by approved companies; I have seen many that were installed incorrectly by third parties. Besides incorrect software set-up and commissioning, I have seen some installations with the sensors installed on the legs of the crane. When the boom is hoisted to travel over the ship’s bridge the boom anti-collision has to be disabled! Yet this is the very time when you need the protection…..crazy.

“Other collisions” highlighted in the pie-chart include gantry collisions which can be prevented by gantry travel anti-collision sensors.

“Other spreader, hoist issues” include dropping cargo; slings breaking; wrong slinging procedure, etc. can often be prevented with better systems and procedures.

The section marked “Wind cranes” in the analysis includes crane runaways during high winds. Clearly, when a storm is forecast  this is preventable with correct securing systems and procedures. We are seeing wind storms happen anywhere in the world today; in places where they have not traditionally occurred.  All cranes should be secured with pins and tie-downs regardless of geographic location. Our advice for sudden, unexpected wind storms, is to ensure all gantry brakes are working 100%. Investigations of nearly all the crane runaways that were due to microburst or sudden windstorms have found that the gantry brakes were not all working fully. Most cranes are designed for the gantry brakes to hold the crane against a 35m/s wind. If the brakes are not all working at 100% a lesser wind has the potential to blow the crane along the berth.

“Crane collapses” are preventable with regular structural inspections. The ILO Convention 152 states that the cranes should be structurally inspected by a qualified structural engineer at least annually.

“Weight / twistlock / cell guide issues” include overloaded or eccentrically loaded boxes, containers being dropped and cargo damaged due to issues such as not all twistlocks being connected, damage to cell guides or the spreader.  The latter is often as a result of being caught in the cell guides as a result of cargo eccentrically loaded in the box. Many of these incidents can be prevented with twistlock load sensing which is new technology provided by Lasstec (Conductix - Wampfler) and Bromma.

“Stack collisions” result when the spreader or a container under the spreader collide with a container stack or the ship – knocking containers into the water or onto the berth apron.  This can result in damage to the container, the cargo, the crane and, unfortunately on too many occasions, serious injuries and fatalities. This is preventable with stack profiling. Most major crane electrical suppliers provide this technology today.

“Twin twenty issue” refers to picking up 2x20’ containers with the spreader in 40’ mode. This is a common problem which can cause severe damage and delay. It is preventable with sensors on the spreader to detect the gap between the two 20’ containers.

We are now in the era of mega container ships. While not all terminals will receive the biggest ships, with the “cascading” effect, nearly every terminal will be experiencing larger ships. With this comes pressure from the shipping lines to maintain or reduce ship turnaround times, while requiring more container moves. While many of the larger terminals are looking at bigger and faster cranes, automation and remote control in order to help manage the increased demands, any terminal large or small can implement the technologies and procedures described above and benefit from improved performance and safety.




Through Transport Mutual Insurance Association Limited and TT Club Mutual Insurance Limited, trading as the TT Club. TT Club Mutual Insurance Limited, registered in the UK (Company number: 02657093) is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority. In Hong Kong, TT Club Mutual Insurance Limited is authorised and regulated by the Hong Kong Insurance Authority, in Singapore by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and in Australia by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. In the United States, TT Club Mutual Insurance Limited is approved as a surplus lines insurer in all states and is accessible through properly licensed surplus lines brokers. The registered offices are: 90 Fenchurch Street, London, EC3M 4ST.

Through Transport Mutual Insurance Association Limited, registered in Bermuda (Company number: 1750) is authorised and regulated in Bermuda by the Bermuda Monetary Authority and is authorised in the UK by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority.

The UK VAT Identification number for Through Transport Mutual Insurance Association Limited is: GB 564 5244 35 and for TT Club Mutual Insurance Limited is: GB 564 3375 30. The Italian VAT Identification number for TT Club Mutual Ltd is: 03627210101.