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It’s not worth skimping on reliable fender systems…

For peace of mind, you can’t beat quality

Investing in the right fender system – even if it means shelling out more on a reliable, top quality product – is money well spent if it means avoiding costly periods of downtime as the result of damage to port facilities.


Largely unnoticed, mostly overlooked and probably taken for granted in many ports, marine fenders are actually a thin but crucially important line between smooth operations and a hefty insurance claim. So the quality of a port’s fender system is vital. But which fender system to choose? Caribbean Maritime contacted FenderTeam Americas about fender installation and the complexities involved in any purchase. FenderTeam president Dominique Polte says:

“Our standard range encompasses more than 10 different fender types, like cone, cell, element and foam-filled floating fenders. Each type has specific advantages and it depends on the project and the conditions on site as well as the preferences of a port or its consultant as to which fender type is used for a particular project. Just to give an example, the cone fender with a deflection of 72 per cent has the most efficient energy absorption to fender weight ratio; and since clients are buying energy absorption, this fender type provides, in general, the most value for their money.”

Clearly, different types of fenders are required for different circumstances and a range of marine environments and there is a good deal of overlap depending on the preference of the client. For example, container terminals can be equipped with cone, cell, element or even foam fenders. Typically, foam-filled floating fenders are used for cruise terminals in the Caribbean because of their ability to adapt to practically any ship shape and their low-friction polyurethane outer skin (which is also non-marking). This is particularly important for cruise ships where operators don’t like to see black marks on a ship’s paintwork from cylindrical rubber fenders.

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. High quality and reliability are both important when choosing a fender supplier. When fenders fail or are not working properly due to low quality, then there is a cost to the port in terms of repair, downtime or even accidents.


Obviously, ports make money only when ships are berthing safely and regularly at their terminals; but if facilities are shut down for fender replacement or repair owing to premature fender failures, then the savings produced by the ‘cheap’ fenders are often lost in a single day, since daily downtime could be measured in thousands of dollars per hour. So it’s important for ports to be involved in the selection of the fender supplier, or to pre-approve some high quality suppliers.

It’s also advisable to test the equipment at the point of manufacture rather than undertake local testing – because of the very limited availability of local testing facilities for these type of products – and under the supervision of an independent third party and/or the client. Another important issue for ports is that the fender supplier should have product liability insurance as well as a claim-free record of at least five years.

So choose wisely and don’t go for the cheapest option – it will cost more over the long haul.

This article was written with assistance from FenderTeam Americas Inc. Picture is of Barbours Cut Terminal, Houston