Vessel fenders What are they and what are they for?

Vessel docking fenders are elastic elements positioned to help cushion the impact of the ship against the quay during the docking maneuver. These fenders absorb part of the energy brought by the ship as it approaches the quay, reducing the risk of hull damage. They also prevent wear and tear in the quay area, as they help to minimize the reactive effect of the structure to the ship’s approaching power.


What are ship fenders?

We refer to ship fenders as any element that is placed along the quay so that ships do not directly hit the quay. In the different ports you will find fenders made of wood, rubber, cork or different materials combined with each other.

The fenders are hung from the dock at a certain distance from each other so that the boats do not rub against the structure.

Fenders can also be installed on the boat itself. This way, the boat is always protected and there is no need to worry about those on the docks. Mooring them correctly to the boat will provide our boat with the essential bumpers so that the approach to port does not pose any problem.

How are fenders for ships placed?

The most common way is to place them on the sides of the boat above the waterline. They can also be placed on the bow for more efficient protection.


What does docking a ship mean?

The term docking refers to the approach of vessels to the port dock, whether for unloading, refueling or maintenance work.

In any port, the port authority allocates a specific docking position to the different national and foreign vessels, according to a schedule. This position, as well as the time allowed to stay, is communicated to the crew so that the docking maneuver is carried out as close as possible.

The port authorities assign docking positions taking into account the specific characteristics of each vessel. This is why the fenders you will see in a port vary from one dock to another, depending on the type of ship docking in each area.


What are the functions of the fenders in ports for docking ships?

Fender systems prevent damage to both ships and dock structures. They minimize the direct friction between the hull of the vessel and the concrete or wooden structure of the quay, which would result in damage to both structures.

The fenders absorb the kinetic energy that moves the boat in its displacement and transforms it into reaction force. In this way, both the hull and the pier can withstand the collision, as it is cushioned by the fender components.


The importance of a ship’s fenders

The design of the fenders is essential for them to perform their function correctly. There are numerous studies in which different designs have been produced and tested in order to arrive at the most appropriate systems.

Just as important as the pneumatic part is the anchoring of the fenders, which must be carried out taking into account a highly unfavorable load combination. This ensures a positive response in all cases of docking. Material and surface adhesion are essential when choosing the type of anchoring.


Types of boat fenders

There are countless types of fenders, ranging in price and performance. In fact, any piece of rubber or PVC suspended above the waterline can be considered a fender. The boat rests on these pieces and can maneuver without the risk of rubbing against the hull.

Suisca Group recommends the installation of approved fenders to prevent damage to vessels and dock infrastructure. These are the most commonly used.

Inflatable PVC fenders

Recommended for recreational and shallow draft vessels. They can be cylindrical, flat, bow or step fenders. They are made of PVC and inflate to the right pressure in order to absorb the impact. It is advisable to place a fender every 2.5 meters, although in some very narrow moorings it will be necessary to place them closer together to avoid friction.

The air filling system is very simple, just use the valve and cap provided. Under no circumstances should a needle be used to inflate the fenders, as this will puncture the valve and render it useless. Manual inflators or a gun with an air compressor can be used for ease of use. The pressure required for correct operation is indicated in the product information.

Cylindrical fenders

These are suitable for larger boats and are very easy to install. They protect the hull both at the dock and when abalone. They are placed vertically or horizontally along the hull, always taking care that the anchorage is adequate.

Flat fenders

They are made of polyethylene foam, a semi-rigid structure that protects the hull without soiling it. They are the most suitable for narrow moorings, when there is little distance between boats, as they make better use of space. They do not deflate, since the material is encapsulated in nylon.

Pneumatic fenders

These are the most commonly used for ship-to-ship mooring at sea or ship-to-dock mooring at jetties. They are also recommended when the ship’s cargo is liquid or carrying sensitive and dangerous goods.

Ship fenders prevent ships, vessels and tugs from colliding with the dock or jetty and with each other. For this reason, they are known as bumpers. They absorb the kinetic energy so that the dock receives a much smaller impact. In addition, as they are made of semi-rigid material, they prevent chafing on boats and damage to the jetty.

If you have any doubts about fenders for ship docking, do not hesitate to contact us. Suisca Group offers you everything your boat may need with the advice of our experts.