Over the last few months, as my ship has called into the state of California, I’ve run into an issue where line handlers / terminal representatives are limiting or restricting the safe mooring operation of the vessel. Each time this happens California’s State Lands Commission (SLC) is listed as the catalyst for the restrictions.
A recent example had the linehandlers telling the vessel’s officers that, according to the drawings approved by SLC, my vessel only needs to run six mooring lines to safely moor - to clarify, that’s three on the bow and three on the stern. When I told the mates that were would run out our customary 12 lines, the line handlers refused to cooperate, citing that our mooring plan would then be against the approved drawings and that they would get a fine.
After threatening to return the vessel to sea, they finally agreed to run out 10 lines, but then didn’t place them in the locations we agreed to. These guys weren’t just being lazy either - they were honestly trying to do what they felt was correct.
Do any of the readers have familiarity with the Marine Oil Terminal Design and Maintenance (MOTEMS) process and would they shed some light on just how this supposed to effect the ships at the docks? While I understand the need to know and respect the design limitations of mooring strong points, I find it absurd that a line handler would tell the ship’s master that he’s not allowed to put out additional lines (even when unused bollards or cleats are available).
I’m also curious about how this will be looked at legally should something tragic happen. I think US case law is fairly clear that the master must ensure the vessel is securely moored to the dock. A safe berth must be provided, but the responsibility to moor there lies with the vessel.
What will the courts say if I want to put out additional lines but have my request denied because of SLC approvals? I sincerely doubt that SLC is going to stand up and say “my bad” when I’m getting grilled for not mooring the ship up correctly.