Incident

A chemical/products tanker was entering harbour with a pilot embarked on a breezy, rainy night. A tug was standing by and was ordered by the pilot to secure its tow line.

The tug master manoeuvred close to the port bow, ready to receive a heaving line from the ship. At the same time, the deckhand stood to one side of the tug’s aft deck and indicated to the ship’s mooring party that he was ready for them to throw the heaving line.

The line was thrown, and the end landed on the tug’s deck with a loud bang. Attached to the end of the line was a heavy 0.5kg steel shackle.


The deckhand removed the shackle from the heaving line and continued to pass the tow. The berthing continued without further incident.

The tug master informed the pilot of the incident, and the tug provided two bean bags to the ship as alternative, safe weighting for heaving lines.

Lessons learned:

  • Fortunately, the deckhand was standing to one side of the deck and the shackle landed away from him. He was wearing a hardhat, but a shackle dropped or thrown from height might well have caused serious injury despite this, and would certainly have caused an injury if it had struck any unprotected part of his body.
  • Under no circumstances is a line to be weighted by items such as shackles, bolts, nuts or twist locks. The only safe options are rope-only ‘monkey’s fists’ or a ‘bean bag’, provided the weight is no more than 0.5kg.
  • This tug company has a no-tolerance policy to dangerously weighted heaving lines, removing weights and reporting incidents. It backs this up by keeping supplies of bean bags on its tugs, and crews supply safe alternatives to any ship using dangerously weighted lines. This approach is to be commended.