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4 Best Practices for Maintaining Mooring Ropes

Mooring lines, also known as hawsers, are thick wire ropes or synthetic cables used to hold watercraft in place. Multiple mooring lines can be used on some vessels to distribute stress and to provide backup support to the other lines. Mooring a vessel requires some coordination and skill, and the mooring line is made up of many essential components to ensure long-term safety and effective operation. Wire mooring lines have an incredibly high tensile strength and require the assistance of a heaving line to achieve effective mooring. 

The wide range of uses for mooring lines along with the multiple points of attachment on the ship itself means that many people are handling the mooring rope across its service life. Correct training and a basic level of understanding of how the mooring line is manufactured can improve and extend your mooring ropes’ service life. Additionally, daily care practices can go a long way in improving the safety of your ropes.

If a mooring rope is poorly maintained or placed under high pressure, it can be prone to snapping, causing devastation and danger as the ship is subjected to navigational issues and drifting. Further, the recoiling or snapping of a mooring rope can cause accidental injury and even death, meaning that all sailors and workers should take extreme care and caution around these hard-working pieces of equipment. 

proper care can extend the lifespan of your hawsers

mooring ropes being lubricated with Viper WRL

Moorings come in all shapes, sizes, lengths, and compositions, and are an essential component of responsible boat care. Whether you use mooring ropes to protect your vessel when it’s out of commission, or you rely on them for day-to-day workplace safety, it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of how to care for them.

One should never underestimate the value of a well-maintained mooring line, which can protect your boat in even the toughest conditions. While mooring ropes don’t generally have a predictable lifespan, good maintenance can increase and improve their service life and prevent expensive accidents and damage. 

If a mooring rope is allowed to wear down without proper inspection or maintenance, there is a very real risk that the rope will fail during departure or loading. Like any important (and expensive) tool, mooring ropes deserve some attention and care to protect the investment, and to ensure they can do their job for many years to come.

Read on for some simple mooring rope maintenance tips that you can incorporate.

The 4 best practice for maintaining mooring ropes

1. Visual Inspections 

wire rope

Just as you would inspect the condition of the boat before berthing, you should inspect the health of the mooring ropes. This should be completed at least monthly, even if your boat is moored the entire time. Check the rope closely for signs of fusing, splicing, corrosion, fraying or splitting, making sure to err on the side of caution if in doubt.

Internal wear and tear may not be immediately visible, so you may need to open the strands at some of the highest stress points to get a better look. Otherwise, if rust or corrosion is occurring on any of the fixtures or fittings, it can be a good indicator that your rope may be ready for retirement. If at any point the broken wires exceed 10% of the total wires in the diameter of the rope, it should be discontinued immediately. 

2. Lubricant Upkeep 

Mid Lubricator ship mooring rope

Wire mooring ropes should be lubricated regularly with an approved and specially designed lubricant such as the Viper WRL VCG-1 Coating Grease. Wire rope lubricants are made most efficient and effective when used in conjunction with a wire rope lubricator which can help to grease the core along with the individual strands of the wire, preventing corrosion. 

Manual greasing can be ineffective and messy, lubricating the exterior of the rope without penetrating effectively. A good coating grease can protect against shock loading, minimise friction, prevent rust and corrosion, and provide protection in extreme temperatures without washing off in turbulent water. When used in conjunction with an automatic wire rope lubricator, coating grease can increase equipment availability and prevent downtime, while freeing up workers and sparing workplace risk. 

3. Proper Storage Techniques 

hawsers stored on a ship

The way you store your mooring rope when it’s not in use can be just as damaging as incorrect day to day use. For the best long-term protection, store your ropes up high off the ground away from chemicals, debris, and moisture. Your ropes should be stored under the deck for long voyages or under a tarpaulin or canvases to prevent overexposure to saltwater, heat, and sunlight.

If you are using wire ropes, clean and lubricate them before storing, so that your ropes survive the downtime. Cleaning dirt, sand, and debris from your wire ropes before storage can prevent such elements from clinging to the rope causing internal abrasion. A correctly applied lubricant can prevent rust and corrosion and keep your ropes healthy for later use. 

4. Correct Handling

Viper WRL lubricating a wire rope

Care should be taken when handling the rope to avoid sharp or uneven turns which can cause kinks or snapping. When heaving or slacking the rope, use rollers or take care to apply sufficient tightness and keep consistent turns to prevent chaffing. Whenever a new wire rope is making its maiden voyage, it should be uncoiled according to its instructions, ideally using rollers. 

Any long wire that is under extreme tension can have a risk of snapback. This should be considered when handling your mooring ropes, especially synthetic fibre ropes which don’t provide any indication that they are about to snap. Both fibre and wire ropes should not be allowed to cross with other ropes which could lead to premature wear and tear. 

More About Lubricant

As experts in wire rope lubricators, Viper WRL knows what it takes to maintain effective and durable mooring ropes. We have a range of automatic wire rope lubricators, cleaners, and marine-grade lubricants available, so you don’t have to look anywhere else for your mooring rope lubrication needs. 

Get in touch with one of our crew members to discuss your mooring rope maintenance needs.