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We equip wharves with fenders that act as a cushion between the wharf and the vessel. They absorb the shock of the vessel when it approaches its berth and goes from a low speed to a full stop.

Even if a vessel’s speed has been reduced to a bare minimum, when it approaches the wharf to dock the combined strength of its inertia, the waves, the current and the wind propel it forward. Without buffer fenders, the sides of the ship would hit the concrete or metal of the wharf, causing damage to both the wharf and the vessel.

Historically, most fenders were made of rubber and most often huge tires were used. “But the use of these recycled tires is on its way out, “ said Jean-François Belzile, the Port of Montreal’s Harbour Master. “It’s hard to measure their effectiveness because they’re not all used the same way. Some crack easily. Next, their rubber is very hard and it can buffer the smaller ships, plus their shock absorption capacity is hard to measure.”

Buffer methods keep becoming more sophisticated and the latest marine fenders offer a whole other aspect. Now several types of models exist. The Port of Montreal is currently implementing a project to modernize its wharf fenders, at a cost of $10 million over five years with financial assistance from the Quebec government under its Maritime Strategy. Port of Montreal engineers working with the Department of Marine Operations are making plans to prepare the wharves to receive the new fenders.

On some wharves, for example at the oil docks, we have already started replacing the tires with mechanical fenders. They have a higher shock absorption capacity than the tires, so they are more effective when it comes to mooring high tonnage vessels.

At the Cruise Terminal we opted instead for floating fenders, which are 3.5 metres in diameter. Fenders have to be wide enough to provide three metres of space between the ship and the berth to leave enough room for the luggage crate to go back and forth. In addition, this type of fender can be easily moved to. That means its spacing configuration can be easily adapted to the size of the vessels, which varies considerably.

There are cylindrical, conical and vertical fenders that all meet different needs, such as the size and therefore the weight of vessels, the curvature of the ship’s hull, the resistance of ice in winter, etc.

“In short, when it comes to marine fenders, there’s no single solution for all vessels. There are lots of variables to consider,” said Jean-François Belzile.

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