Case Study |
RPEQ Mooring Approval
Operational and legal risk associated with moorings can be substantially mitigated with sign off from RPEQ Engineers. So, it is good to see some regulatory authorities on the East Coast requesting sign-off of moorings from RPEQ engineers. GBMPA requires RPEQ sign off on Great Barrier Reef moorings and the Gold Coast Water Authority (GCWA) for moorings in its waterways. However, Marine Safety Queensland (MSQ), who regulates other moorings, focuses on navigational safety and still has no published requirements relating to engineering in the design, installation and maintenance of moorings. Query how this affords any protection to owners of nearby vessels or port infrastructure from mooring failure.
See links to further information on the various requirements here:
- Mooring Checklist (Draft) GBRMPA
- Buoy Moorings (Maritime Safety Queensland) (msq.qld.gov.au)
- Buoy Moorings – Gold Coast Waterways Authority (gcwa.qld.gov.au)
RPEQ Approval Intent
The strategic approach to mooring management of GBRMPA and GCWA lean on the competency and integrity aims of the Board of Practicing Engineers Queensland and the RPEQ competency assessment process. Registration as a RPEQ is reportedly “formal recognition of the qualification and competency of an engineer in the State of Queensland”. Much of the drive and impetus for registration came from problems in the building industry (Form 15 folk) that reflected difficulties in allocation of responsibility in design, approval and build quality. A comprehensive management review and discussion initiated by GBRMPA and completed by Arup in 2016, laid the foundations for a comprehensive marine management and inspection framework.
Importantly, “the RPEQ must have sufficient knowledge, oversee and evaluate the carrying out of the service, have sufficient control over any outputs and takes full responsibility of the outputs as stipulated in the Code of Practice for Registered Professional Engineers.”
However, the RPEQ process does not differentiate between engineers with suitable expertise or competency in areas of mooring practice. The focus is on the civil and structural building professions as reflected in their industry representation. The RPEQ process also leans on institutions such as Engineers Australia and Royal Institute of Naval Architects for endorsement of progression in those professions. Reviewing the RPEQ Areas of Engineering suggests mooring design and approval could fall into several engineering areas. Importantly, unless a prescriptive standard exists including mooring specifications (clump weight, chain and hawser sizes, buoys requirements) for localities, then an application of engineering service is required, encompassing scientific calculations. Therefore, the legislation in Queensland suggests an RPEQ engineer should be involved, either in supervision or verification services.
A suitable RPEQ Engineer
In selecting an RPEQ engineer for business risk mitigation, you should screen and question the experience and competency of that person in the mooring business. Focus on mooring competency, value, and applicability.
Use the RPEQ website, but understand that the areas of expertise don’t necessarily align well.
Understand also, there is no Australian Standard or specific risk guidance for mooring engineers in Australia and so there will be a tendency to lean on existing OCIMF, British and API (Oil and Gas) standards. Misinterpretation of industry standards has led to mooring failures along the East Coast.
Scope of the RPEQ Mooring Engineer
There are three areas where RPEQ Engineer input should be considered:
- Mooring Design Approval
- Mooring Installation Approval (As built)
- Mooring Inspection and Maintenance Approval.
Mooring Design approval is often referred to as drawing approval or sign off. It includes anticipated environmental factors, strength of materials, operational limitations, installation and maintenance requirements. The applicability of RPEQ sign-off which is typically 12 months or less and the design can be applicable across several sites depending on contracted arrangements. The design should stipulate guidance across all aspects of design intent (design, installation, maintenance). If the design does not adequately cover all these aspects, the costs of inspection and remediation will likely be significant.
Mooring Installation approval often includes a copy of the drawing or equivalent marked up with location, final materials, anchor load testing and, if relevant, an inspection test plan and associated contractor sign-off. In effect it is a statement of fact confirming the mooring was installed in accordance with the design intent.
Mooring Inspection and Maintenance is typically the least understood and most contentious of activities. It was traditionally the domain of diving contractors and operators in terms of perceived expertise in underwater integrity. Therefore, it is important that mooring engineers have a working knowledge of diving and subsea inspection operations and can demonstrate tangible value in specifying and understanding relevant inspection/replacement criteria. Guided inspection scopes and reports completed by competent divers can be used to underpin desktop approval by RPEQ Engineers.
The use of RPEQ engineers in supporting best mooring practices does not prevent operators from doing their own inspection work and should not be seen as an unreasonable imposition but rather as risk mitigation to be openly endorsed by underwriters. Reef tourism operators should be open to such approaches and endorsement. Given the recent UNESCO concerns about the Great Barrier Reef, there will be significant focus on all human interaction with the Great Barrier Reef including shipping and tourist operations. Mooring practices such as the widespread use of regularly shifting clump weights to hold structures on the reef will come under significant pressure.
ONA Marine provide quality mooring asset support services to minimise cost and maximise return on marine investments to forward thinking vessel owners/operators, government and corporations looking for a competitive advantage using asset lifecycle management to reduce maintenance costs, improve asset performance, enhance decision making, and extend useful life. Our team of asset managers support mooring lifecycle considerations including RPEQ sign off and design approval.
This article is written by Mike Priestly of ONA Marine and is based on a review of the available information. Feel free to contact me for clarification if you believe any statements are erroneous or misunderstood. The article is not engineering advice, simply information to enable more informed decisions when it comes to identifying opportunities to do better.