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  • Mooring Operations

    I work on cruise ships and our mooring decks have autotension winches for each line so everything's pretty quick. You just flake the line out, send it, heave it, cut it and make fast.

    I wanted to know how things are done on ships with, say, just the windlass warping drum or a capstan where the lines need to be stoppered, transferred and made fast on bitts. Do you not lose tension when you take the line off the drum? How do you manage tidal adjustments? Does it not take a ridiculous amount of time to tie the ship up?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Bowline View Post
    1) Do you not lose tension when you take the line off the drum?
    2) How do you manage tidal adjustments?
    3) Does it not take a ridiculous amount of time to tie the ship up?
    1) Yes.
    2) Make it all nice and tight (but not too tight) at high water and then leave well alone. If it's not a high water tie up, guesstimate a bit of slack in and check what it looks like at high water. 1) helps with this. Come low water and an offshore breeze you'll move out from the quayside a bit. So long as your gangway or accommodation ladder is long enough, not a problem.
    3) Sometimes. Depends on how many lines you put out and how many deck hands you've got.

    In der RFA where I works: we have lots of ABs so it's not too hard to handle several heavy ropes simultaneously. Sometimes we have so many they just get in each other's way. Tying up takes a long time because RFA captains think that if a ship has 12 lines each end then you have to use all of them every time you go alongside. To be fair, something like 4+2+2 is common and we often stay in harbour for weeks. As part of 2) we have to watch out for spring tides if the original tie up wasn't. "Mate! Why are we heeling over towards the berth?" "Because the ropes are pulling us over Captain..."

    2 out of 13 RFA ships have ATWs and even on those they aren't used all the time. Depends on the skipper and/or mate.

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    • #3
      Thanks Steve.

      With my experience being so limited it's interesting to see "other ways" of doing things. It seems almost counterintuitive to leave slack in a line, though I suppose in passenger shps with lots of gangway traffic you want to make sure the ship stays right up against the fenders.

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      • #4
        Same for me in the RFA, it's interesting and valuable to have insight into how things are done in other organisations. I would have thought length of gangway is more critical than taughtness of lines other than in harbours with extreme tidal range. You tend to have quite short gangways from openings at or near the level of the quayside? (Assuming a small tidal range)

        Depending on the ship, we use Yokohama or pontoon fenders quite a lot, so we have a fair stand-off from the dockside anyway.

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        • #5
          Perhaps I miss understand what you mean when you say you are using auto-tension winches but I find it quite surprising that you would leave the winches in "auto" mode on a cruise ship (so that it automatically heaves up the slack throughout the day?) - if I ever suggested leaving the auto mode on I would expect to get my ass kicked by the captain! But perhaps thats just down to having very old school captains who expect you to keep them tight yourself.

          While I have only ever worked on cruise ships generally all our mooring arrangements (4 ships with 2 different companies) have been what I would consider standard... 4 + 2 on rare occasions where arrangements of the bollards don't allow anything else - to the more normal 4 + 2 + 2.... all the ships have had split drums, plus the drum ends allowing up to 8 ropes to be let go simultaneously if necessary.

          We do not normally transfer lines to the bits - unless we are running more than 8 lines - from the drum ends - instead preferring to 'back-em-up' on the bits - as transferring the lines makes it a pain to heave or slack them when the tide changes - leaving on the ends allows 1 or 2 people to heave it or slack it, if its on the bits we need to send more people each time we want to heave or slack.
          ?Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn?t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.?

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          • #6
            We sit on auto tension for everything, apart from the lines that are on the bits...4+2 is the most commonly heard radio call followed by all fast and then "Ready for auto tension" cos BOTH ends have to do it at the same time else it gets messy
            Trust me I'm a Chief.

            Views expressed by me are mine and mine alone.
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            No I do not report things from here to them as they are quite able to come and read this stuff for themselves.


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            • #7
              On my last ship (first ship!) we usually had 6+2 fore and aft - 2/4 head or stern lines, 2/4 breast lines and two springs. For overnights, heavy swell in the harbour, strong winds blowing the ship off the berth etc... we'd put out another breast line at each end which usually stayed on the drum end with a locking turn rather than using the bitts.

              For us, standard practice was 50% auto-tension on head/stern/breast lines, and springs left on the brake.
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              • #8
                As chiefy said, we were the same, 4+2 in auto-tension (sometimes 3+2) and their was always an AB and the OOW on deck while in port, so you could see if anything was going wrong straight away . I think of a 3 and a half month trip we only had the winches on the brake once

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                • #9
                  On here (Ro-pax) we tend to tie up with 1+1+1, leaving the breast line on auto tension. Don't think I've even seen a stopper on the mooring decks!!

                  Size4riggerboots

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                  • #10
                    Can anyone recommend any good books to learn about mooring operations, from very very basics to wot ul need as an OOW? According to my terrible course leader I'm doing "the Mate's course" cos I'm doing this dreaded P.D n theres nothing about mooring...and I find it hard learning from the people on ship cos they're English isn't good and my Bulgarian/Russian/Romanian is absolutely atrocious haha....

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                    • #11
                      It's not really something you can learn about from books, it's down to experience. As a cadet you start off lumping lines about and getting them flaked out, then get to stand next to the guy doing the winch operations, then start doing it yourself with him next to you. Then you stand with the officer in charge and listen to the radio comms and the orders he gives, watch what he's watching, when he gives the order to cut it so you get enough turns on the drum (minimum of 3, but not so many that turns will run over each other and dig in/cause a riding turn), the hand signals used to communicate etc. As a first trip/first phase cadet you might get to the point where you do the winches, but it's only in the latter stages of your sea phases that you'll get to do comms stuff, and even then you'll be supervised until they're happy you can do it competently.

                      Auto tension makes life dead easy - you just heave them in until they're tight but not singing (best way to describe it, you'll know what I mean when you see it) and then set it to auto, it pays out a bit, heaves in again and then you're set. I've been on a cruise ship without auto tension as well and it's down to the OOW to ensure that the deck crew on watch check the lines every hour, more if you've got a big tide (harbour watches aren't actually an opportunity to just sit down and get on with paperwork, you have to know what the tide's doing, what angle your gangways are at, watch out for weather that might cause trouble [ie. big black clouds= squalls, which could blow the ship off the berth, QM2 once broke 7 mooring lines like that!!, not when I was on but I heard the tales]) On cruise ships they like to keep the ship tight up to the fenders, but not so tight that they leave big black rubber marks on the paintwork, so regular checking and adjusting of the lines is necessary.

                      The order and number of lines being put out isn't up to you, as the officer in charge of the operation you go to the bridge for a briefing first, where you will be told this. In general though, spring lines go out first, then head lines/stern lines and finally brest lines.

                      If you're trying to write a report on this, the best thing to do is take LOTS of photos. Mooring is, generally, actually a very simple operation, but difficult to describe, pictures paint a thousand words and you can put lots of arrows on them and label everything. Photos show you were there and paying attention. Even if you don't get much in the way of verbal explanation from your ship's officers, by the time you've seen it a million times, you'll know what's going on!

                      Size4riggerboots

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                      • #12
                        Really good post by size4riggerboots. One thing I'd add, a lot about mooring is situational awareness and second guessing what the old man is thinking. You need to thinking about how the ship is moving, turning where its going to dock, and be ready to throw out a spring or stern line in a hurry if the ship needs stopping sharpish, and be trying to work out where you're final position will be so that you get good leads on all your lines. The most annoying thing is when you get several lines ashore, and then its decided you'll move 10 metres ahead/astern......... GRRRRRR

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                        • #13
                          As well as keeping an eye on the ships state when coming alongside/departing, as an officer on the deck you are responsible for making sure that the guys working the lines are not straying themselves, or being put in a position where their safety is at risk.

                          You really have to have eyes in the back of your head while you're down there. You'll tend to find that most captains like to put a more senior officer on the aft mooring deck, you want your most experienced eyes where you can't see. In most cases the fo'csle deck can be seen from the bridge however the aft mooring deck is practically out of sight.

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                          • #14
                            ermmmmmm......on cruise ships maybe, but box boats 'tis the other way around......well in fact the Obs Lounge cant see sod all fore or aft what with all those pesky boxes in the way, as such 3rd goes aft 2nd goes fore and we hope not to hit the side to hard
                            Trust me I'm a Chief.

                            Views expressed by me are mine and mine alone.
                            Yes I work for the big blue canoe company.
                            No I do not report things from here to them as they are quite able to come and read this stuff for themselves.


                            Twitter:- @DeeChief

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                            • #15
                              Just to add my two pence worth from the RN side of things...

                              All warships use this standard set up, but it will change this year when the ROPP system comes in (All lines will be HMPE and rigged as springs)

                              All RN lines are doubled up on bollards / Bits.

                              ? The ship manoeuvres in to position either under own power or with tug assistance (cold move)
                              ? we pass lines, some times the CO may nominate a line as “Priority” i.e a Fore spring so we can use it as a brake is approaching without tugs or if the tide is strong.
                              ? Once all lines are singled up (one line on each bollard) we adjust them for tension using manual winches/capstan/windlasses or by hand in some cases)
                              ? When the NO and the Bosun (me!) are happy with the position, we order “double up and secure” this means the lads use a NFC stopper to transfer the lines from the winches/capstan/windlasses to the bollards / Bits, then do the same with a second line.
                              This is standard practice for all ships in all ports, if the elements pick up we also rig either, spring hawsers or hurricane hawsers depending on the dockyard.

                              a few pics I use when teaching, this is the basic set up.
                              Head / Stern ropes – to keep ship parallel to the jetty, keeping bow & stern in check.
                              Springs - to stop the ship moving along the jetty.
                              Breasts - to keep her in to the jetty.
                              Last edited by size4riggerboots; 5 March 2013, 01:53 PM. Reason: Image links broken - huge amount of gibberish text instead
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