TT Talk - Windstorm Lockdown - taking responsibility

Despite, or perhaps connected with, an historically long run of relatively benign North Atlantic hurricane seasons, most people now accept that climate change is happening. Severe windstorms are being seen in locations they have seldom occurred before. As a result, TT Club is urging ports and terminals globally to establish sound practice systems, procedures and equipment to withstand severe storms.

Many will associate the key risks of extreme weather with tropical regions, though the 'man on the Clapham Omnibus' might be forgiven for wondering why, as he tighten his grip on his belongings and walks almost horizontally into another winter wind. The reality is that storms can strike almost any coast and also inland location almost any time.

Key risk assessment

Although there are many issues for port and terminal management to consider, there are two clear leaders - quay cranes being blown over or along the berth and ships at the berth breaking mooring lines and causing damage. Wind damage due to cranes being blown over or along the rails accounts for about one fifth of the total cost of weather related insurance claims in ports and terminals globally, according to the TT Club's experience.

All quay cranes, no matter where in the world they are located, should be secured using storm pins and tie-downs prior to any storm arriving. Securing the cranes is clearly the terminal's responsibility. However, in many places the Port Authority's income is affected by the volume of cargo its terminals handle. Therefore, it is also in the interests of the Port Authority to ensure the terminals have adequate systems and procedures to secure the quay cranes.

Another related occurrence is ships causing damage during storms through breaking mooring lines, damaging berths and exposing the cranes to damage. TT Club's statistics indicate that this type of incident accounts for 13% of the cost of weather caused claims.

Port authority risks

Most Port Authorities have emergency procedures for forecast storms that include sending ships out of the port to ensure they do not cause damage to themselves and/or port facilities. This action is normally only required of large ships that can more comfortably ride out the storm at sea. TT Club would urge ports to ensure that procedures are in place and tested, even more so where there is little history of severe weather.

So, every port should have documented plans and procedures. Most have contingency procedures to prevent berthing or de-berthing when wind speeds are above a certain speed, usually 12 to 15 m/s (metres per second). All ports should additionally have specific plans in case more severe wind speeds are to be experienced. For example, if a wind storm is forecast to be hurricane strength of above say 33 m/s, all ships should be de-berthed and sent out of the port before the wind gets too severe to prevent de-berthing.

As ever, procedures need to allow consideration of potential exceptions, such as where the ships are too small, there are other dangers in de-berthing or greater risks of having ships in open water. For example, in some river ports there may be more danger of the ship dragging anchor and grounding in the river, blocking the channel, than there is of damage to the ship or berth whilst alongside. However, in most cases, to protect port and terminal assets, Port Authorities should have clear and specific procedures to send big ships out to sea when a severe storm is forecast.

Terminal operational risks

There is a clear risk of impact to the terminal's business if a berthed ship breaks its mooring lines and damages the berth or knocks over one of the quay cranes; an untethered ship being blown along a berth can cause great damage to the port infrastructure. Many terminal managers believe it is the responsibility of the Port Authority to determine ship movement when severe weather is forecast. However, because of the risk of operational disruption, it is paramount that terminals should be intimately involved in and with Port Authority plans and procedures for severe weather preparedness and recovery. If there is not already this kind of engagement, discussions between terminal interests and the Port Authority around the benefits of such procedures should urgently be had.

In severe conditions, where a ship is repeatedly breaking its mooring lines, the crew can literally run out of spare lines. Generally, the supply of lines is the ship's responsibility; ports and terminals have no involvement except to provide linesmen. However, for the sake of business continuity for a terminal and a port, it is prudent for terminals to have available a supply of mooring lines for emergency use.

Conclusion: working together

In summary, all operations in a port can be affected by incidents during severe weather conditions. The Port Authority and all terminals should work together to establish contingency plans and be aware of the various best practice systems, procedures and equipment to withstand severe storms. The TT Club's risk management handbook

'Windstorm II: Practical risk management guidance for marine & inland terminals'

is a recommended starting point.

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