Securing & Tying Down Objects Aboard Vessels Expert Article

All vessels, regardless of size, are subject to requirements, standards, and procedures for securing on board materials. The objective is to reduce and/or eliminate the likelihood and consequential severity of exposure to hazardous conditions caused by the movement of loose or unsecured objects.

In this article, Marine Operations expert Captain Hendrik Keijer addresses the importance of securing or tying down objects as an exercise in risk management aboard vessels.

Vessel securing expert

Securing & Tying Down Objects Aboard Vessels - Expert Article

To learn more about risk management and hazard analysis, click here for the first article, which focuses on Boating Safety. Click here for the second article which focuses on Marine Carbon Monoxide & Fire Detection Systems.

Vessel movement and securing requirements

When vessels move, they may roll from side to side and pitch up and down. The movement of a vessel results in fluctuating forces on everything aboard including, but not limited to, passengers, crew, cargo, stores and equipment. Improper tying down or securing can lead to damage to the vessel, and to the items carried aboard and/or personal injury. Good seamanship consists of securing before and during a vessel’s voyage, regardless of expected weather or sea conditions.

Movement of a vessel may occur due to:

  • External forces - wind and waves
  • Technical issues - course alterations, instrumentation settings and operator error.

Securing, or tying down methods

Different securing methods have been developed for various objects commonly found on board, such as containers on cargo ships, vehicles on “ro-ro” (roll on-roll off) vessels, gym equipment, and trolleys on passenger vessels. When vessels, regardless of their size, transit areas that may result in an increased probability of motion, heightened due diligence to securing items may be required.

Small items that require securing range from scuba dive bottles to fire extinguishers, chairs, glassware and others. Unsecured items can cause personal injury and/or damage to the vessel and should be identified and secured prior to and during any voyage, using available means such as straps, ropes, and lockable drawers.

Photo: A secured Fire Extinguisher aboard a vessel.

Cargo securing manual

“With the support of other International Maritime Organization (IMO) member governments, the U.S. led a proposal to include new requirements for cargo securing manuals in the International Convention for Life at Sea (SOLAS). Under SOLAS, all cargo vessels engaged on international voyages and equipped with cargo securing systems or individual securing arrangements must have a Flag State approved Cargo Securing Manual (CSM)” (source: Federal Register/ Vol.65, No 232, Dec 01 2000, proposed rules).

A Cargo Securing Manual is a risk management tool which assists mariners in applying measures and methods to the securing and stowage of various types of cargo. Different means such as chains, wires and anti-skid materials may be used in the process of securing objects. The method of securing a container requires sufficiently strong equipment which will differ in design and application from those applied to the securing of vehicles. A CSM will typically include an inspection and maintenance schedule of the securing devices. Frequent inspections are important to identify the effects of fluctuating forces, vibrations, and other potential causes for lashings or tie downs to lose functionality.

Photo: Cargo vessels subject to heavy weather can lead to cargo damage - Source: Kustwacht Nederland

Aside from ensuring all cargo is secured, additional measures may be taken to avoid items from shifting aboard:

  • Weather avoidance through adjusted routing
  • Deployment of stabilizers (if equipped)
  • Adjustment of a vessel’s speed
  • Altering direction of travel

Despite the presence of codes of safe practice, regulations, and publications advising on the safe stowage and securing of items aboard vessels, incidents continue to occur in which the shifting of items causes damage and injury.

Cruise ship hazards

Cruise ships are operated as floating hotels, where the convenience and enjoyment of passengers often trumps practicality when it comes to the securement of fixtures and objects on board. Furniture and smaller items used in the daily operation of a luxury floating hotel may become flying projectiles when these vessels are subject to motion, putting both passengers and crew at risk for injury. The crew can utilize announcements to increase passenger awareness and encourage proper stowage, or avoidance of areas where securement of all objects is not possible (ex: a dining room with chairs not fixed to the deck). It is also advisable for cruise ships to implement a heavy weather securing plan.

Investigating Issues Related to Securing or Tying Down Objects

From commercial shipping to recreational boating and everything in between, the maritime industry is multi-faceted and diverse. The Maritime practice at Robson Forensic is made up of experts from every facet of the industry, from navigators to marine engineers, to experts in operations both on board and in marina settings. Our experts have the education, training, and hands-on experience to investigate incidents of damage and personal injury aboard vessels of all types and sizes.

Featured Expert

Hendrik J. Keijer, Marine Operations Expert

Hendrik J. Keijer

Marine Operations Expert
Captain Henk Keijer is a retired Master Mariner and Marine Engineer. For more than 30 years Captain Keijer operated a variety of vessels ranging from cruise ships to cargo ships and smaller boats. He… read more.


View All Articles

Risk Management Aboard Vessels: Boating Safety

By Hendrik J. Keijer
Expert Article

In this piece, the focus is on Boating Safety Education and the importance of a pre-departure Safety Briefing. Good seamanship requires Captains, vessel operators and owners to have mitigation and…

Marine Carbon Monoxide & Fire Detection Systems

By Hendrik J. Keijer
Expert Article

All vessels, from small recreational boats to large ocean going ships, have safety systems onboard designed to reduce and/or eliminate the likelihood and consequential severity of exposure to…

Embarkation & Disembarkation of Passenger Vessels

By Hendrik J. Keijer
Expert Article

In this article, Marine Operations Expert and retired Master Mariner, Hendrik Keijer discusses the potential hazards that passengers, guests, or even crew, may face when embarking (getting aboard) or…