Type Approval and fender performance verification

By Mishra Kumar, Business Unit Director - R&D, Trelleborg’s marine and infrastructure operation

As vessel sizes get larger, the importance of mission critical equipment like fenders becomes even more vital.

If the vessel’s kinetic energy cannot be absorbed by the fenders then where does the energy go? The energy usually goes directly into damaging either the wharf or both the wharf and the vessel, undoubtedly endangering lives and property. So how can the port owner or operator guarantee that the fenders installed at their facility are actually able to absorb the prescribed energy?

Type Approval is defined as proving that products have a reliable quality and reasonable design requirements. Many consultants put their faith in fenders from manufacturers that are Type Approved courtesy of the many certification bodies across the industry. The problem is that they don’t have sufficient knowledge as to how manufacturers have gained such approval and what data should be created in the process. The reality is that unfortunately, Type Approval is often awarded for single fenders (by testing a single fender using the testing protocol of PIANC’s guidelines), yet the certification is applied to complete product lines and in some cases, manufacturing facilities.  

Should a manufacturer have multiple ranges of fenders and grades within those lines, they are only currently obliged to take a small sample of the smallest size within that range and test it to a variety of temperatures, angles and velocities. It is this performance data that is then published in a fender range or line catalog. However, this isn’t enough to guarantee performance of the entire range and grades. Type Approval shouldn’t be a quick fix that can simply be purchased. Each and every model, size and grade of fender in a range should be tested sufficiently – a process that should take approximately 12 to 24 months to complete, as suggested by PIANC’s guidelines. Once the performance of a particular grade and size of a fender is published, any further adjustment to the performance or compounds requires further Type Approval testing.

Fenders are crucial in protecting both the wharf and the vessel so it is important to have stricter processes in place to reflect this. In order to truly guarantee the lifecycle and specified performance of fenders, the generation of Type Approval performance data must be independently verified by a third-party, or at least outside of the manufacturer’s control.

For more information, please visit: https://www.pianc.org/publications/marcom/guidelines-for-the-design-of-fender-systems