In recent years a number of high profile mooring failures have emphasised the high risk nature of this element of a floating structure. Semi-submersible Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs) operating in the harsh North Sea environment have experienced approximately 3 mooring failures every 2 years, based on an average population of 34 units. In recognition of the high mooring failure rates, the HSE has introduced recommendations for more stringent mooring strength requirements for units operating on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) . Although strength requirements are useful to assess the suitability of a mooring design, they do not provide an insight into the question: what is the reliability of the mooring system?
This paper aims to answer this question by evaluating failure statistics over the most recent decade of available data. Mooring failure rates are compared between the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS), the UKCS, and with industry code targets to understand how overall reliability is related to the strength capacity of a mooring system.
The failure statistics suggest that a typical MODU operating in the UKCS would experience a mooring line failure in heavy weather approximately every 20 operating years. This failure rate appears to be several orders of magnitude greater than industry targets used to calibrate mooring codes. Despite the increased strength requirements for the NCS, failure rates do not appear to be lower than the UKCS. This suggests that reliability does not correlate well with mooring system strength. As a result, designing to meet the more rigorous HSE requirements, which would require extensive upgrades to existing units, may not significantly increase mooring system reliability. This conclusion needs to be supported with further investigation of failure statistics in both the UKCS and NCS. In general, work remains to find practical ways to further understand past failures and so improve overall reliability.