Ben Bullock recently joined Beca as a Senior Associate within the Ports and Maritime team based in Brisbane. He has over fifteen years’ experience designing maritime facilities and supporting owners / operators of marine terminals achieve their business objectives. As chairman of the BS 6349-1-4 panel and a member of the BS 6349-4 panel, Ben also contributes to the development of maritime industry standards.

On his arrival, we sat down to get Ben's opinion on defective bollards in advance of the forthcoming update to BS 6349-4 – the maritime code of practice for the design of fendering and mooring systems. This is what he had to say…

As one eminent ports engineer used to say:

A quay wall with defective fenders or bollards isn’t a useable quay, it’s just a very expensive retaining wall.

Fenders are items of quay furniture, typically manufactured from rubber, used to absorb the impact energy of berthing vessels and to prevent vessels from contacting berth structures. Bollards are items of quay furniture which ship’s mooring lines are tied around to hold vessels safely at the berth during cargo transfer.

Although manufacturers have continued to update and develop their products, design standards and specifications for fenders and bollards have largely remained unchanged for decades. Recently there has been significant international effort to update and improve the guidance provided for fender design and specification with the publication of BS 6349-1-4:2021 (further update due to be published in 2024) and with the upcoming publication of PIANC WG211 (guidelines for the design of fender systems).

Bollards, however, appear to have been left in the dark. They are still commonly designed using a global factor of safety on a quoted Safe Working Load, are regularly procured with little or no verification testing and commonly are kept in service for years without regular proof load testing.

Most concerning is that defective bollards pose an acute safety risk. With increasing frequency there are reports (and social media posts!) of bollards breaking under mooring loads and detaching from the quay or other marine structure. Once detached, a bollard becomes a dangerous projectile, travelling at high-speed following an unpredictable trajectory. Not only does the detached bollard have the potential to cause injury or damage, but often the lost mooring can lead to an ‘unzipping’ of a vessel’s remaining moorings and allow a vessel to drift and cause further damage.

There are many reports of such incidents resulting in serious injury, fatalities and large financial loss (e.g. $5M USD) and likely there are many more such incidents not reported in the public domain. Any safety incident and/or damage to the quay has an obvious impact on the terminal’s ability to generate revenue while safety investigations and/or repairs are undertaken.

The good news is the forthcoming update to BS 6349-4 will help improve the reliability of bollard installations to reduce terminal downtime and the occurrence of safety incidents. It will include improved guidance related to fenders (to compliment the guidance provided in BS 6349-1-4), as well as improved guidance related to bollards, such as bollard design, recommendations on how to use modern design techniques and robust testing practices.

About the Author
Ben Bullock

Senior Associate - Ports & Maritime Engineer

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