Innovation 03 May 2023

The battle of the cracked fender

When cargo ships sail in to load LNG at the Karratha Gas Plant in Western Australia’s north west, they pull up alongside two jetties called berths.

Attached to the side of each berth, are up to five rubber fenders. The size of a person in diameter, they're used to help secure ships for loading and to prevent damaging the vessel or jetty in rough seas.

Over time, the fenders deteriorate and in a routine inspection of berth 1, cracks appeared in two of the eight-year-old fenders. One crack was a metre long and an inch thick.

The fenders are manufactured in China and at the time the country and its factories were in COVID lockdown. Our Storage and Loading Execute/Front End team faced a logistical pickle to source and install this vital equipment quickly

Two months later, two new fenders were finally fabricated, but it was another 4 weeks, before they arrived at KGP via China and Singapore.

Shipping schedule delays meant the team couldn't replace the fenders until the week before Christmas - a time when most people take holiday leave. Adding to the complexity of the task, it was cyclone season.

"If a cyclone approaches, we need to reduce our tank levels, so we need both berths to get ships in to empty our product before the cyclone. We still produce LNG and need space to fill up the storage tanks. So, it was crucial that we got the berth back to service before a weather event over the Christmas or New Year period," said Execution Superintendent LNG/Storage and Loading Ben Biddiscombe.

The likelihood of finding contractors to help replace the fenders at this time of year was a big challenge and Ben was told "you're dreaming". But a team of Karratha and Perth based Monadelphous crew, came to the rescue.

"The Monadelphous team went above and beyond, to help us replace the fenders."

And it was far from a holiday for everyone involved. It was a high risk, high profile, and high complexity activity for KGP in Q4.

Each fender and front panel assembly, weighs 16 tonne - the weight of 9 standard cars. The lift was completed using a barge crane, with the mechanical activities performed onboard. The front panels were then high-pressure cleaned and fitted with new fender cells before being lifted and fitted back to the berth.

The team also managed to improve the safety of their rigging and fabricated bolt pins, to assist the fender line-up and stop it moving up and down, preventing hands in the line of fire.

"The fender replacement was a huge success - on time and on schedule, completed in 5 days and without any safety incidents and some great innovative solutions. A huge thanks to the crew from Monadelphous and Bhagwan Marine, to ensure KGP’s port operations were not interrupted during this challenging time of year," said Ben.