OperationsPorts and Logistics

Bollards in the spotlight as port accidents grow

With accidents increasing in volume and severity during manoeuvring and berthing in port, insurer TT Club has issued guidelines for best practice for those onboard and ashore when vessels come in to dock.

Among a host of suggestions, the terminal insurer has hinted that the time has come to regulate the installation and upkeep of bollards, especially in today’s supersized ship era.

Writing to clients this week, Peregrine Storrs-Fox, the TT Club’s risk management director, noted: “In many ports bollards may have been in place and potentially unchecked for decades. There is currently no international standard to ensure that bollards are sufficient in number, quality and capacity, as well as suitably located for the tonnage likely to call at each berth.”

The insurer stated that it may be appropriate to source non-destructive testing to verify the strength of bollards.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. There is a company in the North East of the UK that has a very precise NDT system for evaluating bollards. Bollard Load Testing is the name. This has been in existence for some time and its system is now part of the UK requirements for new bollards.
    Interestingly, there is as great a requirement for testing new bollards as in testing the old ones. http://www.bollardloadtest.com or http://bollardloadtest.com/

    1. Putting a load on a bollard is not the definition of non destructive testing. Load testing is more like bungee jumping. If you survive the rope was indeed strong enough……

      There is a company called Bollardscan doing the Non Destructive testing of the bollard and its anchoring. The method is scientifically underpinned and endorsed by Lloyds and VCE.

      (in Europe, Middle East, Americas)

  2. Sam,

    Is there a link to report that “we” can send to our port authority folks (who otherwise never listen to Pilots). If we complain about anything, generally we are ignored and considered just “whining” about something…again.

    But a document from an insurance club (or “other” respected entity) carries a different weight.


  3. Sam, bollards should be consigned to a museum. The use of mooring lines to tie ships up is inefficient. It is also costly with regards to the number of wharfies and mariners who have died or been severely injured by a line breaking. Its time to utilise suction or electro magnetic fenders. They have been around for a long time. So why aren’t they being more widely used; cost of course. Having said that there is a shipping company running across the Bass Strait that have used them since 2004 and they paid for themselves within 2 years.

  4. Rob — that is the start of a great Contribution you could pen for Splash … 500 – 600 words?

  5. Sam,
    This unfortunately is a global issue. The rate of mooring incidents is ever increasing, alarmingly so, with bollard failure being the primary cause. Bollard failures have many contributing factors, such as; Cruise Liners have, since 1992, practically quadrupled in size whereas supporting infrastructure has, in general, not kept pace. Currently, there is no legislation in place to enforce mandatory inspection and testing of such critical port assets. However; vessel operators, ensuring safe havens, are now beginning to ask the question of ports “Are your bollards safe to use, and where is your proof?…”

    Bollards come in many shapes, sizes, capacities and materials and throughout their life will suffer corrosion, fatigue and other detrimental effects.

    The forces exerted on a bollard are considerable, being in some instances in excess of 200 tonnes-force (metric), which can weaken the bollard and its fixings to the point that the bollard fails to withstand such forces. Should this happen; it can cause catastrophic, and costly, damage to vessels, dockside equipment and to the quayside itself, as well as serious or even fatal incidents. It is therefore best practice to inspect and test mooring bollards at regular intervals.
    An oft-overlooked area when it comes to the safe mooring of vessels in ports, shipyards and harbours is testing the safe working load (SWL) of bollards. With the ever increasing size of vessels, the time has come to focus and raise the issues that have been experienced with bollard failure, as well as the challenges faced in testing the SWL of bollards.

    For further information, would you please view:


    BLT is compliant with the Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) 4-150-08 – Inspection of Mooring Hardware and operates to MIL-STD-3007F.
    BLT also has considerable aggregated data in the global field of bollard load testing and would be very much delighted to contribute to this initiative and/or to help raise awareness throughout the sector.

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