Offshore InjuryBlog

How Port Logistics Affect the Safety of a Vessel's Crew

Every vessel must make port. This process includes a wide range of activities, depending on the nature and size of the ship. The heavy machinery used at ports, in conjunction with many different crews operating simultaneously, the transfer of hazardous materials, and other situations increase the risk to all workers. Due to this high level of danger, the way that a port operates can greatly affect the safety of those who visit it.

Activities performed at port can include:

  • Ballast water management
  • Bilge waste management
  • Boiler maintenance
  • Dredging
  • Loading and off-loading cargo
  • Passengers embark or disembark
  • Ship repair and maintenance

Typically, a port operator has contracted with the port authority to manage and optimize the flow of cargo at a port. They coordinate between ships, trucks, trains, and other transportation to keep traffic flowing smoothly at the port. Port management is responsible for coordinating the many moving parts of a port, including tugboats, warehouses, anchorage, cargo transfer, and many other processes.

The safety of everyone at the port must take propriety over the speed of operations. All personnel from dockworkers to crane operators, truck drivers to helicopter pilots must be careful at a port, to avoid any accidents. If management fails to diligently direct any of these activities, crewmembers may face injuries or worse when their vessels arrive in port. Vessels may collide, cargo may be dropped, and machinery may break down if proper care isn't taken.

Steps to increase port safety include:

  • Do not underestimate adverse weather, such as heavy rains and winds
  • Encourage personnel to report any unsafe practices immediately
  • Ensure that all emergency items are easily accessible and stocked, including first aid supplies, lifejackets, and fire extinguishers
  • Maintain realistic goals for completion of tasks and mount of cargo which can be handled
  • Perform routine maintenance on all cranes, vessels, safety gear, and other equipment
  • Provide adequate lighting for all operations
  • Train all staff on any relevant processes

Diligent management of a port's operation can greatly decrease the risk to workers both off and on ships that are docked there. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) offers information on marine terminal industries, including many cargo processes at port, with information on hazard, gear regulations, and other safety topics.

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