TT Talk - Keeping safe while using ships' gear and equipment

The use of unsuitable or unsafe ships' gear for cargo handling risks death or serious injury to those using it and damage to the lifting gear itself, other parts of the ship and/or to the cargo being handled. Incidents have arisen through lack of maintenance or repair, and unsafe and unfit conditions for use. Who should do what?

Although the majority of the world's ports provide shoreside cranage, it is still necessary in some facilities to use ships' gear to load/unload cargo. We focus here on lifting appliances, such as derricks and jib cranes located on the ship. Whilst all kinds of ships ramp, both external and internal, are classed as access equipment, the means to lift and lower them is classed as lifting equipment. Any gear provided by the stevedore will be subject to national port or general safety laws on that subject.

What is the safety standard?

The international standard regarding ships' gear is contained in the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 152 on Health & Safety in Dockwork. It specifies that every item of lifting gear must be tested when new, or when repaired or modified so that its lifting capacity may be affected, and given a thorough examination. When in service, it should be given a thorough examination at least once in every 12 months. In addition, every lifting appliance on board ship must be tested every five years.

Apart from the unhelpful position that ILO 152 has not been implemented globally, there may be divergence between the applicable laws of the flag state and the port state. However, unless otherwise provided, where the ship is to be discharged/loaded by shoreside personnel, it is normally the laws of the port state that take precedence.

"where the ship is to be discharged/loaded by shoreside personnel, it is normally the laws of the port state that take precedence"




Under the ILO Code of Practice 'Safety and Health in Ports', published in 2005, the shoreside employer, whose employees will use an item of ship's lifting gear, is to check that the gear register or other documents are in order and, importantly, to check that the gear itself, as far as can be ascertained, is safe to use.

Depending upon the age of the ship, the quality of its records and the condition of its gear, this checking process may not take very long. Regular ship callers will be familiar with the port state requirements and this will also facilitate speedy checks. Inspections need only be carried out on the gear that it is intended should be used. In some instances, a simple check will suffice, whereas there will be situations in which more extensive examinations will be justified. Stevedore companies should ensure that only experienced employees, such as gang foremen, should carry out the checks. If necessary, training may be needed but adequate checking of the actual gear itself calls for experience.

Safe procedures and thorough checks

The importance of the checks themselves is matched by the nature and rigour of the procedures that need to be in place. An horrific accident occurred when a pedestal crane was tested under near full load with numerous personnel in attendance; when the bolts holding down the structure failed, not only were the crane and load written off, but there were several fatalities.

Here are some essential principles to follow:

• Inspect and ensure that the Lifting Gear Register is up to date, and all the associated test certificates are available, not forgetting those for loose lifting equipment that might be used for the operation (such as slings, shackles, chains etc).

• Take particular care where the anticipated activity is with heavy lifts and project cargoes that may have specialist lifting rigs or frames to be used with the cargo.

• Carry out a visual inspection of the lifting equipment, preferably by someone who is experienced and competent. Take care to inspect the anchoring arrangements for hoist wires on the wire storage drum itself. If in doubt, or something doesn't look right, call in an expert lifting company for a professional opinion.

• Make sure the operating position is clean and visibility is clear, with protection from the weather, and there is safe access to the equipment.

• Test the crane through its full range of operations and ensure limit switches are working.

• Never overload the crane or equipment past its SWL which should be clearly marked.

• Ensure the operation, cargo and ambient conditions have been fully risk assessed and communications are effective and understood. Ensure everyone involved in the operation understands what is going to happen - anyone not involved should be kept away.

• When stevedores are operating the ships' lifting equipment, ensure that the operator has is properly trained and that he/she has been shown the controls by a responsible ship's officer.

Following these basic principles for every operation will go a long way to ensuring that there are no incidents that endanger life and/or cargoes.

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance in the preparation of this article of Capt Richard Brough OBE, ICHCA's Technical Advisor

We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox

Risk Management Director, TT Club

Staff Author

TT Club