Crane accidents: Port equipment manufacturers, others update safety recommendations for quay container cranes

Worried by the causes of crane accidents and to reduce injuries and loss of life as well as to reduce damage and delays to port and terminal operations worldwide, the Port Equipment Manufacturers Association (PEMA), the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA) and TT Club, an international transport and logistics insurers, have updated safety recommendations for quay container cranes.

According to PEMA, the original document, published in 2011, and now the fully updated version, draws together the extensive operational and engineering experience of PEMA, ICHCA and TT Club

PEMA noted that the paper also calls for a new approach to crane procurement that recognizes safety as an integral part of operational decisions to minimise risk of injury to personnel, equipment damage and operational disruption.


In a concerted effort to reduce injuries and loss of life, as well as to reduce damage and delays to port and terminal operations worldwide, TT Club, ICHCA International and the Port Equipment Manufacturers Association (PEMA) agreed in 2010 to jointly develop a set of recommended safety features as a minimum standard for all quay container cranes.

The genesis for the project was a TT Club global analysis of insurance claims by ports and terminals, which revealed that 34 per cent of the cost of asset-related claims worldwide was directly related to quay container cranes.

While a range of technologies now exist that can significantly improve the performance of quay container cranes, and help address some of the most common causes of accidents and claims, many of these features are not currently included as standard on new cranes.

The three organisations therefore set out to identify and recommend a baseline specification for quay container cranes in relation to safety features that should be included in specifications, tenders and quotations for new quay container cranes.

This document, first published in June 2011, is the result of this joint working initiative, and is intended for buyers and suppliers of quay container cranes. Subsequent revisions reflect improvements in language, clarity on risks and available mitigation options and other refinements from the original document based on best practice.

The recommendations provided here do not carry any force of law, and are independent of the various local, national and international regulatory regimes on the safe design, manufacture, specification and operation of cranes, which must be adhered to.

The goal of all three parties, however, is that the safety features outlined here will be embraced by buyers and suppliers as a voluntary industry standard.


With more than 2,000 insured operations, including over 400 ports and terminals globally, the claims data gathered by TT Club provides a real perspective of the types and causes of accidents globally. An analysis of TT Club claims globally for ports and terminals for the five years from 2014 to 2018, as shown in Figure 1, identified that 24 per cent of costs are related to quay container cranes.

The global cost analysis of claims in ports and terminals was the catalyst for this paper, which recommends minimum safety features that can minimise or entirely prevent some of the most common causes of accidents involving this type of port equipment. In 2018, when the first edition of this document was published, the total percentage cost of global asset claims related to quay container crane accidents over the previous five years was 34 per cent. As indicated, by 2018, this figure had fallen to 24 per cent.

We believe that this document has contributed to this reduction. However, preventable incidents continue to occur. Therefore, we need to continue to make the industry aware of these minimum safety features.

Each of the major causes of quay crane claims is described in further detail below, along with suggested ways to reduce the frequency of accidents in future.


Boom-to-vessel collisions are the single largest cost of quay crane claims. For example, a boom collision several years ago that bent the crane boom took six months and US$2m to repair and caused a further US$6m in lost revenue. See figures 3 & 4 for examples of damage typical to this type of incident. Many cranes have a trip wire boom collision prevention system that leads terminal operators to believe that they are protected from this sort of accident. However, trip wire systems tend to be maintenance-intensive, and depending on the speed of the gantry, can be ineffective in stopping the crane before a collision has occurred. The best proven technologies are electronic sensors or systems that provide coverage for a minimum of two zones, for example warning or/ with slow down and stop signals.


Quay crane structural integrity issues and crane collapses are not included in the minimum safety features list of this paper as it is not something that is specifically included in crane specifications as it is basically a maintenance issue. However, these issues are highlighted because structural failure is the third biggest insurance claim cost for quay cranes. Not only can this type of equipment failure be very costly in terms of repairs and operational down-time, but it can result in serious accidents and personal injuries.

 It is essential for operators of ports and cargo handling facilities to establish and follow a regular schedule of maintenance and thorough examination of all the lifting appliances. Provisions for such examinations are specified in ILO Convention 152 and its accompanying Code of Practice, and together represent the international standard for the port industry. The purpose of a thorough examination is to ensure that cranes can continue to function safely and effectively. The integrity of cranes’ structure is crucial to this.

 It is also recommended that an independent examination is always performed when procuring any type of crane. The ILO Convention requires that, prior to commissioning, lifting appliances are tested, and thoroughly examined. It is also recommended that appropriate mechanical and electrical inspections are carried out, during manufacture and commissioning, to check quality and conformance to standards and specifications – beyond any ILO Convention requirement. Once commissioned, a crane should be examined regularly during its operational life regardless of crane type, condition, environmental conditions, etc. Damage resulting from relatively minor impacts, regular heavylifts close or equal to safe working load limits, intensive use and general wear and tear can affect the integrity of a crane’s structure.

Often, such operational issues can arise without anybody being aware of them so regular examinations need to be conducted. Any reported incident should prompt an immediate examination of a crane’s structural integrity. This advice applies not just to quay cranes but equally to fixed and mobile cranes of all types.


Wind damage, primarily involving cranes being blown along rails, is the largest preventable weather damage cost. While operating and securing procedures are a significant issue in reducing this type of accident, equipment type and design can reduce such claims. See Figures 5 & 6 for examples of equipment damage caused by wind.

OTHER COLLISIONS Other collisions include gantry and hatch cover collisions, spreaders and containers colliding with handrails, crane legs, and other mobile equipment.

HOIST, WEIGHT, TWISTLOCK, CELL GUIDE ISSUES Spreaders and cell guides tend to be the most intensively used items of equipment in a terminal and as such require regular inspections and frequent preventative maintenance in accordance with manufacturers’ (or Class) specifications. Recent advances in twistlock load sensing technologies can help mitigate some of these types of incidents. Many of the incidents where containers are stuck in cell guides are the result of poorly loaded containers tipping from the horizontal near the top of cell guides. Twistlock load sensing can detect eccentricity and allow side shifting of the spreader to level the container to prevent jamming. Besides weight and eccentricity measurement, this technology also detects whether all twistlocks have engaged and prevent hoisting if they have failed to do so.


This is where the spreader, or a container under the spreader, collides with another container on the vessel. This can result in one or more containers being knocked from the stack, falling in the water or falling on the quay deck and causing container, cargo and equipment damage and often injuries.


Accidents commonly occur when two (2) twenty foot containers in a hatch are lifted with the spreader in 40’ mode. When nearing the top of the hatch, the middle ends of the two twenty foot containers risk dropping. This can result in damage to the cell guides, container damage, cargo damage and crane damage. Lengthy operational delays also result, especially if containers become stuck in cell guides.


Technological solutions are now available for quay container cranes that dramatically improve safety and help address the issues outlined in Section 1. However, many of these features are not currently included as standard on new cranes.

TT Club, PEMA and ICHCA International are committed to supporting and promoting technological advances that will enhance safety and performance in port environments. For example, TT Club has recommended the installation of electronic boom anti-collision systems costing up to USD 24,000, which have been proven to prevent significant damage costs and business disruption that could cost as much as USD 8,000,000. These electronic systems also enhance safety for crane drivers, stevedores and vessel crews.

Based on the latest technologies now available, this joint initiative aims to provide the industry with a benchmark for minimum safety features that can be incorporated into specifications and quotations during the new crane procurement process. The entire recommended list of these safety features is shown in Figure 7 and Table 1. Just like seat belts in cars, such features, which have been proven to reduce injury and damage, should be standardized and not offered as optional extras.

Inevitably, crane procurement is price sensitive, requiring a significant budget, and buyers will not always be familiar with the most effective safety technologies. Furthermore, the process is frequently complex. Any quote needs to be carefully assessed against the invitation to tender, and subsequent change requests can be costly. For these reasons, all tender specifications should provide a standard safety baseline.

This document recommends that the features outlined below should be included in the tender specifications developed by buyers, and should also be listed as standard in initial quotations from suppliers, rather than as optional extras. The resulting safety enhancements will reduce injuries and damage costs over the life of the crane, and improve the reputations of both the container terminal and crane industries through the increased focus on safety.


All relevant stakeholders have been involved in the development of this project. PEMA represents the container crane and technology suppliers, and TT Club and ICHCA International represent the container terminals. Each group has liaised with its members to ensure input and ownership from all and the best result.

 Crane manufacturers that choose to include the recommended minimum safety features in their initial quotation, and not as optional, will now be entitled to state in their tender quotation:

 “This tender quotation includes all the minimum safety features recommended by the TT Club, ICHCA International and PEMA”.

The recommended minimum safety features, as shown in Figure 7 and listed in Table 1, are not all-inclusive, but rather a shortlist of key safety features that are both practical and effective to address commonly occurring risks associated with quay container cranes. Based on experience, accident records and analysis of insurance claims, this list covers the systems, structures, features, equipment and technology that have been most proven to reduce injury or damage, and which may not be currently provided as standard features, and often only offered by quay crane manufacturers as an option. Functional requirements for each respective item have been added to ensure that each respective risk is reduced.

The aim is for suppliers to include as standard, not as optional, the features on this list in all their quotations. Terminals and buyers are also recommended to include these features in their tender specifications. Many, if not all, of these safety features can be retrofitted to existing cranes and this is also highly recommended. Existing international, national and/or local regulatory standards must be also be satisfied.

PEMA provides a forum and public voice for the global port equipment and technology sectors. The Association has seen strong growth in recent years, and now has 110 member companies representing all facets of the industry, including crane, equipment and component manufacturers, automation, software and technology providers, consultants and other experts.

ICHCA International is the only global association dedicated to the promotion of safety and efficiency in the handling and movement of goods by all modes and throughout the supply chain.

TT Club is the international transport and logistics industry’s leading provider of insurance and related risk management services. Established in 1968, the Club’s membership comprises vessel operators, ports and terminals, road, rail and airfreight operators, logistics companies and container lessors.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.