Launching and Haulout Best Practices

John VennemanAs marina and boatyards operators, you have care, control and custody of precious cargo. During launching and hauling out operations, it is best to eliminate the potential for damage to the boats, property, staff, and visitors.

Many facilities have small ramps designed for trailerable boats; the following recommended practices are designed for larger crafts that will be handled by forklifts or travelifts.

As general principle, the capacity of all lift equipment should be marked and never exceeded. Lift equipment should be inspected at least annually by a certified service technician. Base the frequency of these inspections on use, severity of service conditions (for example saltwater is harsher than freshwater) and your own experience. The inspection should be consistent with the original manufacturer’s guidelines.

Here are some helpful measures to take when preparing for launching and haulout:

Pre-Lift:

  • Restrict personnel and vehicular traffic in the launch area. The only people in and around the area should be those necessary for the operation.
  • Make sure the launch area is clean and free of any oils or any items that would impede movement or traction of the equipment.
  • Clear the launch area of overhead power lines. This is critical for sailboats and boats with flying bridges and superstructures well above deck level. Any equipment that could interfere with the haulout or launch should be lowered or removed.
  • The end of the launch area should be clearly and prominently marked and have guards to prevent overshooting the end of the pier.
  • On launches, shut off seacocks on all through hull openings at or below the waterline.
  • Travelift slings should be inspected prior to the first launch or haul of the day and prior to every subsequent lift. Slings should be free of cuts, knots and snags. Look for fraying, pinching, and crushing, as well as heat, chemical or ultraviolet light damage. Check for brittleness, stiffening and any loss of material. Other areas of interest are keel and chine pads as well as cables, winches and tires.
  • All pins and shackles should be properly sized and fully inserted or seated before any load is applied.
  • Optimal sling positions should be identified prior to the lift.

During Lift:

  • Haulout and launch operations should be performed only by employees you designate.
  • Haulout and launch operations should not be performed in high wind conditions.
  • Boats that exceed the capacity of the forklift or travelift should not be handled.
  • Adequately secure all gear and equipment on the boat that could shift during the operation.
  • Make sure there is a portable fire extinguisher on each piece of handling equipment.
  • A minimum of 2 people should be involved in all launches, haulouts, lifts and maneuvers. This would typically consist of the operator and a spotter.

Post-Lift:

  • Properly block and stabilize boats prior to removing the slings.
  • Assess operation and take any corrective action as warranted.

Having the ability to launch and haul out boats offers your customers a service that is valuable to them and profitable for you. Whether for routine maintenance or winter storage in seasonal locations, these operations can provide you with a competitive advantage over other nearby facilities. Making sure you are doing everything to make them as safe as possible is essential.

John Venneman is Senior Marine Surveyor for Chubb’s Marine Risk Management Group. He is the current Vice President of the National Association of Marine Surveyors with over 20 years of experience as a marine surveyor and risk management professional. John is also on the National Fire Protection Association’s Technical Committee on Marinas and Boatyards.

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