Berth and fender damage claims


Published: 31 January 2013

Members are advised to take note that the Association has seen a recent increase in damage claims being brought against entered vessels for alleged damage to berth sides, in particular fenders at the berth.

From experience the Association has found that these claims can be both expensive as well as difficult to effectively handle.

Often the first notice of something amiss is when the port issues a claim demand or other type of protest to the local agent and/or the master alleging that damage was caused.

It can then be quite difficult to ascertain whether or not the subject vessel in fact caused the alleged damage or, as has been noted in some cases, the damage was either pre-existing and/or a combination of poor maintenance of the particular berth in question.

In some cases it was, later, possible to track records held by the local port, agents and/or correspondents, that assisted in defending the initial damage claim. In many places, however, such records may be incomplete or non-existent. Even where they do exist, there will be initial delay and cost in attending to the matter and possibly the necessity to provide security before the vessel is allowed to depart.

Local legal regimes are also likely to favour the port and absent proof of non-fault by the vessel, it is likely that there may be strict liability for the subsequent claim which could include the full costs of replacing (not just repairing) the damage structure.

Reasons why damage can occur include

  1. failure to carefully control the vessel during the process of coming on to or coming off the berth
  2. excessive speeds, including too much power being applied by assisting tugs
  3. inadequate mooring arrangements
  4. effect of wind, waves, tides, currents and swells
  5. passage of other traffic near the berth
  6. interaction between berth fixed fenders and hull structure, in particular the presence of permanent steel fenders on some types of vessel


Members and masters should find out in advance from local agents the conditions they are likely to meet at the designated berth. In particular if the berth is in a poorly maintained condition and/or has pre-existing damage. If the vessel has any unusual or particular feature that could cause an issue with the designated berth, this is again best addressed in advance of arrival. Equally, if the berth is exposed to any particularly noteworthy sea and wind conditions, this is best considered prior to arrival. Such information should be sought in advance from the local agents.

Should there be any issue with the berth, then local agents - or if necessary the club's correspondents - can attend to the same in advance and record the actual condition of the same. The master and C/O can also assist by taking photos and recording the condition of the berth with careful notes in the vessel's logs. This process should be repeated on departure and as necessary should any incident occur in the intervening period.

Should issues be found then the master should protest the same to the port, local agents and his charterers prior to berthing.

In case the master is concerned of serious issues and/or the safety of his vessel then prior to berthing he should urgently contact both local correspondent and technical managers for assistance.

During the berthing and un-berthing process, careful attention has to be paid on the bridge to the actions taken on board, by tugs and on shore. Mooring arrangements should be carefully checked to ensure they are appropriate to the vessel, berth and local sea and wind conditions.

If an incident happens

Should an incident occur or should a claim be notified to the vessel:

  1. a careful note, and if possible photographic record, should be immediately taken by the master or C/O
  2. if any third party was involved with the vessel at the material time, be it tugs, pilot and/or stevedores then their activity should also be carefully noted
  3. local correspondents and technical managers should be notified immediately so that appropriate assistance can be rendered
  4. the master will have to co-operate with local authorities, but should not be verbally or in writing make any admission or concession without first consulting with correspondents and owners