Mooring Methods For Ships

In transportation, the ships proved to be cost-effective. They safely carry large amounts of goods and transfer them from one region of the world to another. However, when it comes to ensuring the safety of goods and ships, mooring is one of the most critical steps. 


Every pilot and co-pilot trains to moor the ships in challenging conditions for safe loading and unloading of the goods. Different situations and physical conditions require different mooring methods. The pilot and co-pilot decide which method is secure depending on the weather.


However, ship mooring is the least understood concept – a person who uses ships as a means of cargo transportation doesn’t understand it. However, this guide is going to provide comprehensive knowledge to moor ships of all types.


What is Ship Mooring?

What is Ship Mooring

It is the process of making a ship stay and secure it in one place with the help of mooring lines (ropes). The lines firmly attach to the bollards, keeping the vessel safe at the dock and enabling quick loading and unloading when moored.


In the most straightforward words, the ship crew from the ship threw the ropes (mooring lines) at the dock. The specialized team present at the pier catches the ropes and attaches them to the bollards present on the dock. The fenders present on the side of ships save ships from scratches when they stop at the dock.


However, there are many other types of mooring as well. The ship can be moored at the dock or even in the middle of the sea. So, the method of mooring varies. However, the purpose of holding the mooring is to secure the ship, making it stay in one place and stable. It helps in the safety of vessels as well as the goods that are to be loaded or unloaded.


Mooring Methods For Ships


As I said, there are multiple methods to moor a ship. The captain and staff decide which method they are going to use to moor the vessel in different conditions. Here is a list of some popularly used mooring methods:


  • Single Buoy/Single Point Mooring
  • Conventional Buoy/Multi-Buoy Mooring
  • Ship-to-Ship Mooring
  • Baltic Mooring (To combat offshore wind)
  • Mediterranean Mooring
  • Spider Mooring
  • Standing & Running mooring


1- Single Buoy/Single Point Mooring

Single Buoy/Single Point Mooring

Single buoy mooring is very effective when the ship needs to stay in the middle of the sea. It requires no dock or a physical port. Instead, the single buoy moors the boat and keeps it stable in one place.


It is important to note that there are different types of buoys. A mooring buoy allows connection points for the mooring lines or ropes for mooring in the sea. For example, if the ship needs to get loads 


You might think: why would a ship need to stop in the sea? Sometimes, the vessel stays at the offshore oil and gas terminals, or they need emergency offloading during lousy weather. In such cases, the single buoy mooring is convenient and proves to be cost-effective as well.


2- Conventional Buoy/Multi-Buoy Mooring


Multi-buoy mooring is the most used ship mooring method and offers solid and stable mooring. In this type, the pilot moors the ship with a buoy using multiple ropes or mooring lines. Due to various ropes, the boat remains steady and offers better stability.


This method even works when the single mooring line attaches to the buoy instead of multiple. However, it will make the ship slightly unstable. Therefore, various ropes or mooring lines prove to be beneficial in enhancing stability.


Multiple-buoy mooring involves the anchor (present on the seabed) and the buoy connected through chains. The ropes are chain-joining anchors and buoy spaces from each other. The ships moored with this method remain perfectly stable.


Generally, bigger boats use this method. The oil tankers and other such cargo can be loaded and unloaded because the ships remain stable, showing no drifting movement. The good thing is that this method works in a variety of sea and weather conditions.


3- Ship-to-Ship Mooring

Ship-to-Ship Mooring

Ship-to-ship is the advanced type of mooring that allows two ships to come close to each other and transfer the goods. Generally, the pilots use the ship-to-ship mooring when they opt to avoid the port trip. All the mooring process happens in the mid-sea.


One ship moves at a plodding speed. The second ship comes close to these slowly moving ships. In the process, it aligns itself in parallel to the slowly moving vessels. The speed of the alleged ship decreases once it aligns itself with the other boat.


The pilot then closes both ships, and their distance remains below 50 meters. At this time, both ships move at the same slower speed. The crew members of both vessels throw the mooring lines at each other.


These lines are then attached and secured to bollards or cleats on both ships. Once the ropes are connected, the crew members check the tension and stress in the mooring lines. Once all is okay, confirm and signal the cargo loading staff, and workers can transfer the cargo, oil, and other goods from one ship to another.


The role of fenders is critical in ship-to-ship mooring. They are cushions-like devices that protect the ship from scratches by absorbing kinetic energy. When two ships come close and moor together, chances are they will strike each other as well.


To control the impact of striking, the ships use fenders that absorb the impact (energy) and protect both vessels from scratches and other damages. These fenders are so robust that they even absorb the jerk if the ships touch each other in motion while mooring, which causes a stable mooring experience. 


Different types of fenders are used in ship mooring, including foam-filled and donut fenders. Many companies produce these fenders, including Jerryborg Marine, a specialist in marine fender production. You can find more information on the official website of Jerryborg Marine.


This method of mooring is slightly complex and requires well-trained pilots and highly skilled crew members. A Slight mistake can cost a lot. Moreover, the tides and winds also affect this type of mooring. So, pilots take special precautions when opting for this type of mooring.


4- Baltic Mooring


As the name suggests, Baltic mooring is common and valuable in the Baltic Ocean. The reason is that ships face strong onshore winds in the Baltic sea that make them drift and unstable. To cope with strong winds, the pilots use baltic mooring to keep the vessel stable in one place.


In this type of ship mooring, the pilot drops the anchor that keeps the ship safe from drift. The mooring lines or ropes are attached to the anchor to ensure that the connection between the vessel and the anchor remains firm.


The Baltic mooring also helps to keep the ship parallel to the berth. With the dropped anchor, the ship’s bow or stern will stay upright, making it hard for the boat to be in a parallel position with the berth. This type of mooring is helpful in both keeping the ship in one place and aligning with the berth when the offshore wind is too strong.


The question might come to mind about whether the balter mooring is used only in the ocean or elsewhere. The pilots of the ship can use this when the wind is too strong. It is not only specific to the Baltic Ocean. Ships use it to stay in challenging conditions across all the oceans.


5- Mediterranean Mooring


Mediterranean mooring is helpful in those ports where the space is limited. This type of mooring allows for more and more ships to be ported. The ships approach the berth from the stern side and stay sideways to other boats. The fenders present at the stern save it from scratches when it reaches and touches the dock.


In this type, the use of a dropped anchor is crucial as it helps the ships to align from the stern side to the berth. Once the vessel reaches close to the berth (the distance between the ship and the berth is approximately the length of two ships), then the captain drops anchor from the bow.


The operator does not switch off the engine until it does not reach the correct direction (the stern goes towards the berth). Once the ship perfectly aligns alongside the berth with the stern pointing towards it, the boat reverses and gets moored with the shores.


The ropes or mooring lines are then attached to the bollard present on the port or dock. The fenders of the ship save it when the vessel gently collides with the dock or port. These fenders absorb the collision forces and ensure a smooth mooring experience.


This process is not very complex – and proves to be very beneficial when the space is limited. The administration of the ports can park and accommodate many ships in small spaces at the port.


6- Spider Mooring


Spider mooring type is when the pilot aims to get maximum stability in the anchorage. The mooring lines are secured with anchors or a mooring block embedded in the seabed. The web of mooring lines remains attached to the central point.


These webs of ropes make a structure like spider legs. All the lines and ropes converge at a central point, typically an anchor, and then extend outward to attach at various points on the ship, creating a network of connections. From a distance, the whole mooring structure looks like a spider.


This type of mooring is common in harbors and bays where vessels may need to wait, load/unload cargo, or seek refuge. Due to multiple ropes attaching the ship to the anchor, the fast wind cannot make the vessel drift from its place. 


7- Standing & Running mooring


Both standings and running mooring are the common types, and pilots use these types almost every day. In the standing mooring, the mooring lines attach to the bollard present on the dock, and the ships remain stationary.


Usually, the standing mooring is used when the ship is supposed to be parked or stopped for an extended duration. The ships remain fixed in one place no matter how bad the weather or wind conditions are. Loading heavy loads onto ships becomes more manageable with this method.


The running mooring is opposite to the standing type – and the ship remains in motion while it is attached to a buoy or bollard present on the shore or docks. The boat keeps moving in a specific area, and the pilot performs this type of mooring within the sea where the water is not too shallow.


For loading or unloading, the standing mooring is more suitable than the running mooring. The reason is that it offers more stability, and the ship remains in one place. It ensures smooth and hassle-free loadings without any issues.


What is Fore And Aft Mooring?


Fore and Aft moorings are not the types; instead, these are the directions by which the ships get moored. It helps to know which side, either bow or stern, is directly attached to the buoy. A vessel can be both fore and aft-moored depending on the needs.


For example, if the pilot prefers to moor the ship or boat from the bow, then the crew members will attach the mooring lines to the buoy or dock with the bow of the vessel. In such a case, the ship will be fore-moored, clinging its front side to a buoy.


On the opposite side, if the back side of the ship (stern) is attached to a buoy or dock, then it will be aft mooring. It tells us the direction of the boat relative to the buoy. In the fore (forward) mooring, the crew will direct the bow toward the buoy and vice versa.


Do Weather Conditions Affect All Types of Ship Mooring?


In the sea, the pilots and crew members remain in a fight with the weather. The lousy weather always brings alarms and concerns for the pilots and crew members. So, the question is: does weather also affect mooring and all of its types?


Yes, the weather affects almost all types of ship mooring. The effect is minimal in some types, such as multi-buoy mooring. However, you cannot keep the weather out when it comes to mooring. The skills and expertise of the pilots handle its effect and ensure the safe mooring of the ship.


Modern technologies in ships trained pilots and skilful crew members to cope with the lousy weather efficiently. You won’t see ships getting or failing to moor due to the bad weather conditions. Thanks to the skills, expertise and patience of the captains and team. 


Regulatory Organizations & Precautionary Measures Mooring Ship


Before we discuss the precautions, you need to know that many international organizations have set rules and regulations for safety. The crew must follow these regulations. Some of the critical organizations that are actively contributing are as follows:


  • International Maritime Organization (IMO)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH)
  • OCIMF (Oil Companies International Marine Forum)
  • Classification Societies (e.g., Lloyd’s Register, ABS, DNV GL)


These organizations have set standards that the captains and crew members must follow during the moorings. If a captain overlooks the guidelines and standards during moorings, he will have to face a fine or some suspension.


Standards to Follow for Safety


There are many safety standards that the staff of every ship follows. In the section below, I am going to mention all those safety and precautionary that every captain of the boat should follow:


  • Coordination & Communication: First of all, the pilots must inform the port administration about the mooring that he is going to perform. It helps avoid confusion among the crew members and the dock team that receives mooring ropes from the ship’s crew staff. There must be coordination between the ship’s crew and shore personnel.
  • Analyze Ship Size and Condition: The pilots must decide on the mooring type before knowing the size of the vessel. If the team feels that the ship could be better for any specific mooring type or doesn’t have the equipment, then the leader of the pilot should not moor the vessel.
  • Weather (Wind & Tides): Weather is one of the most significant factors that can affect the mooring of a ship. The captain and crew team should choose the type of mooring by analyzing the weather, wind, and tides.
  • Working Equipements: A boat needs to have equipment for mooring to approach for mooring. Those tools include mooring lines, bollards, winches, etc.
  • Mooring Plan: Before the captain initiates the mooring process, he must have a comprehensive mooring plan. It helps in case when the mooring of a ship fails. The plans for mooring must include a schedule, role assignments con, contingency measures, etc.
  • Safety Measures: The crew that is supposed to be involved in the mooring of the ship must follow the safety guides. Every member of the team must wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Emergency Procedures: Mooring of vessels can fail. So, the pilot must be ready for any unwanted event and should not panic. He should make a clear emergency plan for unexpected events or equipment failures during mooring.
  • Regulatory Compliance: This is one of the most important for all types of mooring. The captains and the crew team must comply with local and international regulations and standards during the mooring of the ship. Negligence can lead to fines and penalties for pilots and crew.




There are different mooring types that a ship can execute depending on the weather conditions and port size. The captain typically determines the type of mooring to follow. However, almost all the types are safe and have their pros.


Following international rules and standards is mandatory regardless of the type being used. These guides offer a detailed overview of mooring methods. It also outlines the safety measures to ensure the safety of crew members, ships and goods.