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AB

The International Marine


Contractors Association

Guidance on the
Management of Life Cycle
Maintenance of
Non-Man-Riding Wire Ropes
Excluding Crane Ropes

IMCA SEL 012


www.imca-int.com December 2004
AB
The International Marine Contractors Association
(IMCA) is the international trade association
representing offshore, marine and underwater
engineering companies.

IMCA promotes improvements in quality, health, safety,


environmental and technical standards through the publication
of information notes, codes of practice and by other
appropriate means.

Members are self-regulating through the adoption of IMCA


guidelines as appropriate. They commit to act as responsible
members by following relevant guidelines and being willing to be
audited against compliance with them by their clients.

There are two core committees that relate to all members:


‹ Safety, Environment & Legislation
‹ Training, Certification & Personnel Competence

The Association is organised through four distinct divisions,


each covering a specific area of members’ interests: Diving,
Marine, Offshore Survey, Remote Systems & ROV.

There are also four regional sections which facilitate work on


issues affecting members in their local geographic area –
Americas Deepwater, Asia-Pacific, Europe & Africa and Middle
East & India.

IMCA SEL 012

This guidance was developed by a cross-industry workgroup


with input from various relevant IMCA committees.

www.imca-int.com/sel

The information contained herein is given for guidance only and endeavours to
reflect best industry practice. For the avoidance of doubt no legal liability shall
attach to any guidance and/or recommendation and/or statement herein contained.
Guidance on the Management of Life Cycle Maintenance
of Non-Man-Riding Wire Ropes
Excluding Crane Ropes

IMCA SEL 012 – December 2004

Contents

1 Definitions .............................................................................................................. 1
2 Introduction ........................................................................................................... 1
3 Purpose ................................................................................................................... 2
4 Scope....................................................................................................................... 2
5 Causes of Wire Rope Deterioration.................................................................... 3
5.1 Fatigue ................................................................................................................................................................. 3
5.2 Corrosion ........................................................................................................................................................... 4
5.3 Abrasion ............................................................................................................................................................. 4
5.4 Crushing............................................................................................................................................................... 5
5.5 Rotation ............................................................................................................................................................... 5
5.6 Cabling.................................................................................................................................................................. 5
5.7 Unlaying................................................................................................................................................................ 5
5.8 Vibration .............................................................................................................................................................. 5
5.9 Elongation............................................................................................................................................................ 5
5.10 Other Deformations and Damage ................................................................................................................. 6

6 Inspection and Testing .......................................................................................... 8


6.1 Overview ............................................................................................................................................................. 8
6.2 Records................................................................................................................................................................ 8
6.3 Inspection ............................................................................................................................................................ 8
6.4 Damaged ropes .................................................................................................................................................. 8
6.5 Types of Non-Destructive Testing ................................................................................................................ 9
6.6 Inspection Relating to Storage and Transport of Wire Ropes................................................................. 9

7 Storage.................................................................................................................. 10
8 Transport.............................................................................................................. 11
8.1 General .............................................................................................................................................................. 11
8.2 Deployment to Work Site............................................................................................................................. 11

9 Maintenance ......................................................................................................... 13
9.1 Overview ........................................................................................................................................................... 13
9.2 Lubrication ........................................................................................................................................................ 14
9.3 Maintenance Timetable................................................................................................................................... 14

10 Discard Criteria ................................................................................................... 15


11 Documentation/Records ..................................................................................... 16
12 Notes..................................................................................................................... 17
12.1 Critical Ropes ................................................................................................................................................... 17
12.2 Discard Criteria ............................................................................................................................................... 17
12.3 Safety .................................................................................................................................................................. 17
12.4 Machinery .......................................................................................................................................................... 17
12.5 Lubricating Wire ropes .................................................................................................................................. 17
12.6 Cutting Wire Ropes........................................................................................................................................ 17
12.7 IMCA Safety Cards .......................................................................................................................................... 18
12.8 Memoranda for ordering wire ropes........................................................................................................... 18

13 Appendices ........................................................................................................... 20
13.1 Example Wire Rope Utilisation Matrix ....................................................................................................... 20
1 Definitions
A&R Abandonment and recovery
API American Petroleum Institute
BS British Standard
DNV Det Norske Veritas
IMCA International Marine Contractors Association
ISO International Organization for Standardization
IWRC Internal wire rope core
NDT Non-destructive testing
PMS Planned maintenance system
PPE Personal protective equipment
RHOL Right hand ordinary lay
ROV Remotely operated vehicle
SWL Safe working load

2 Introduction
This publication is focused on the inspection, testing, storage, transport, maintenance and general care of wire
ropes other than those used on cranes and/or designated for man-riding equipment. These latter two groups
of ropes are already covered by other industry guidance. IMCA publishes guidance in respect of crane wire
ropes used in diving and ROV operations, such as that included in, for example, IMCA D 018, D 024, R 003
and R 004 Rev. 2. The wire ropes referred to in this guidance are typically those reeled on winches and used
for moorings, towing and A&R wires and also lifting slings.

A workgroup formed from IMCA’s Marine Division Management Committee, Safety Environment & Legislation
Core Committee and Training Certification & Personnel Competence Core Committee produced this
guidance with the assistance from the industry including Bridon International, Pfeifer Drako Ltd, Casar and
Kiswire Europe BV.

Wire ropes are used throughout the offshore industry in many ways, thus this guidance is generic. Each wire
rope must be considered individually, depending on its specific operational requirements. The following text is
not taken from legislation and is not mandatory. It is taken from company procedures and wire rope
manufacturers’ guidance and compiled to form a useful reference to current best practice in the offshore
industry. It is thus merely guidance on best practice intended to assist users in assessing or formulating their
policies on the inspection, testing, storage, transport, maintenance and general care of wire ropes as designated
above. A list of some relevant current standards at the time of publication follows below.

IMCA documentation is constantly subject to review and the secretariat would be interested in feedback from
members regarding any improvements to the document, which can be e-mailed to imca@imca-int.com

Relevant standards and guidance at time of publication:


ISO 4309 Wire Rope for Lifting Appliances – Code of Practice for Examination and Discard
ISO 3578 Steel Wire Ropes – Standard designation.
ISO 2532 Steel Wire Ropes – vocabulary.
ISO 8792 Wire rope slings - safety criteria and inspection procedures for use
ISO 19901 – 7 Station keeping systems for offshore structures – in draft at time of publication
API RP 2I American Petroleum Institute Recommended Practice for in service inspection of Mooring hardware
for Floating Drilling Units (2nd Edition 1996)
API RP 9B American Petroleum Institute Recommended Practice for Application, Care and Use of Wire rope for
Oilfield Services
API 9A American Petroleum Institute Specification for wire rope [to become API 9A-ISO 10 425]

IMCA SEL 012 1


BS 6570 British Standard Code of Practice for the Selection, care and maintenance of Steel Wire Ropes
BS 302 Wire Ropes for Cranes, Excavators and General Engineering purposes.
BS 462 Specification for Wire Ropes Grips
BS 461 Bordeaux Grips
BS 463 Sockets for Wire Ropes
BS 464 Thimbles for Wire Ropes
EN 13414-1 Steel Wire Rope Slings Safety Part 1: Slings for general lifting services. 2003.
EN 13414-2 Steel Wire Rope Slings Safety Part 2: Specification for information for use and maintenance to be
provided by the manufacturer. 2003.
EN 13414-3 Steel Wire Rope Slings Safety Part 3: Grommets and cable laid slings
BS 5281 Ferrule secured eye termination for wire ropes
DNV 1994 Rules for Certification of Lifting Appliances.
IMCA D 018 Code of Practice on the Initial and Periodic Examination, Testing and Certification of Diving Plant
and Equipment.

This list is not expected to be all inclusive and there may be additional local legislation, guidance, standards and
also client requirements to consider, depending on flag state of the vessels involved, other jurisdictional issues
and the location of the operation.

3 Purpose
The purpose of this guidance is to provide an overview of best practice in the care of wire rope, as described
in the introduction to this document, which would be useful around the world. Although the guidance is
focused on a relatively small area of wire rope usage, a number of points relate to the care of wire rope
generally.

4 Scope
To provide a comprehensive guide, suggest an overview and detail requirements for the inspection, testing,
storage, transport, maintenance and general care of wire ropes other than those used on cranes and/or
designated for man-riding equipment; that is, wires reeled on winches for use, for example, in A&R, mooring
and towing and in lifting slings. The guidance does not apply to taut wire ropes used in navigational positioning
systems or to slings below 60mm diameter; some relevant guidance on such slings can be found in EN 13414–3.

IMCA SEL 012 2


5 Causes of Wire Rope Deterioration
The main causes of deterioration of a rope in service are fatigue, corrosion, abrasion and mechanical damage.
One or more of the effects of these causes may be present, depending on the service that the rope is put to;
and all must be taken into consideration when selecting a wire rope for a particular application. Incorrect
reeling of a wire rope onto a drum can also cause serious damage (see under 8.2 for deployment of wire rope
to a drum), as can badly aligned or inappropriate sheaves.

5.1 Fatigue

Fatigue in a wire rope is normally caused by repeated bending of ropes under tensile
loading, for example when ropes operate over sheaves and rollers and around drums.

Image courtesy of Bridon International


Shock loading is likely to affect the rope at these points. If a wire rope moves
through sheaves at high speeds it is likely to wear correspondingly quicker.

Wire construction that resists bending fatigue will have a large number of small wires,
for example 6/36 as opposed to 6/19.

Given correctly operating and properly rigged equipment in good condition, the main
factors affecting fatigue are, therefore:
♦ the load on the rope;
♦ the number of operating cycles.
♦ the ratio of sheave and drum diameters to rope diameters;
♦ fleet angles;
♦ rope flexibility;

The difficulty of recording the operating cycles of a wire rope is usually exacerbated by the type of
use. Ideally all wire ropes should be monitored for working loads and number of operating cycles,
with the information recorded in the maintenance history of the wire rope, but that might be very
difficult to achieve in all cases, as for example with some mooring wires.

In the case of heavy subsea utilisation, wires are normally cut back, or subject to cut out sections
and/or de-rating/change of use, to eliminate the section most subjected to fatigue. Cutting techniques
need to be safe and appropriate for the particular wire rope and relevant manufacturer’s information
should be available. The cut back sample can then be subjected to test, by destructive testing and
close examination. If the results of the test are acceptable, the wire could be re-terminated and
tested in accordance with applicable standards. The procedures used in destructive testing should be
rigorously checked, to help prevent variations in results. This should include the following stages:

Assessment of the rope test house to ensure that they have a certified and suitable test bed with
suitably experienced engineers;

Proper preparation of the sample at the work site;

Appropriate packaging and transportation (see 6.6);

Proper preparation at the test house for the destruction test.

Companies’ discard criteria for ropes used in different applications and the requirements of local
regulations will establish when a wire rope would be discarded after a prescribed time.

Manufacturers’ guidance should be sought as to the expected life of their products, but such guidance
needs to relate to the actual usage of the wire rope. See 12.8 regarding points to consider when
ordering a new wire rope, which will help manufacturers to estimate wire rope life expectancy.

IMCA SEL 012 3


5.2 Corrosion

Corrosion, often in combination with fatigue, is a main cause of wire rope

Image courtesy of Bridon International


deterioration and failure in service. Even in very dry conditions there is always some
corrosion of unprotected steel wires.

In some respects, requirements for corrosion resistance and fatigue are opposed. For
the former, a small number of large wires are an advantage, whereas for the latter a
large number of small wires are to be preferred.

Choice of construction, for example in the number of strands and/or their lay is,
therefore, nearly always a compromise.

To inhibit the onset of corrosion, ropes need to be properly lubricated in manufacture


and afterwards as necessary and given frequent applications of suitable dressings during their working
life. In the marine environment there is always a risk of severe corrosion and galvanised wire ropes
are often used. Clearly, subsea and tow wires are highly prone to corrosion. There is a serious risk
of internal corrosion in wire ropes of compact construction, where lubrication may not be penetrating
to the centre, especially when such ropes are used sub sea. Careful monitoring and suitable discard
policies help to avoid the possibility of failure.

5.3 Abrasion

Abrasion occurs primarily in the outer wires. Ropes pulled across


or through abrasives like sand or stone will clearly wear more
quickly. Ropes with fewer, but larger outer wires give a longer
working life under abrasive conditions than those with many
smaller outer wires.
Images courtesy of Bridon International

Ropes with long exposed lay lengths of outer wires are also an
advantage under abrasive conditions.

It is of note that over 50% of the strength of a rope may be in the


outer wires.

The requirements for abrasion resistance in a wire rope are almost Severe wear in Langs lay,
opposite to those for fatigue resistance. For six-strand equal laid caused by abrasion
ropes, as the number of outer wires increases, the resistance to
abrasion decreases.

5.4 Martensite

A useful description of martensite is given by the Wire Rope Corporation of America:


‘Martensite is a hard, non-ductile phase of steel formed when the outside wire surface
Image courtesy of Bridon International

is heated above its critical temperature, followed by rapid cooling by the adjacent ‘cold’
metal within the wire and the rope structure. As the affected area continues to bend, it
will crack very easily, quickly spreading through the wire rope and eventually leading to
complete rope breaks.’

It can develop in circumstances such as:


‹ when a rope reverses direction over a sheave that is still spinning in the opposite
direction (heavy lubrication in the throat of the sheave might assist); or
‹ if a rope continually slaps against a solid stationary surface; or
‹ when a rope runs through an undersized sheave; or
‹ if a rope is continually pulled through the heap of stone/gravel in front of a drag
bucket, such as in a self discharging gravel dredger. or when pulling equipment along the sea bed.

IMCA SEL 012 4


5.5 Crushing

Where crushing is expected to be a main cause of deterioration, equal lay ropes with relatively few
wires and having steel cores are to be preferred. Equal lay means that all the wires have the same
length of lay, such that the wires do not cross over each other but lay in between the wires of the
next interior layer. This avoids layers of wire being crushed across each other. Ropes that resist
crushing are those with compacted equal lay construction, with solid steel cores, or triangular strand
ropes having steel cores.

Inappropriate sheave sizes and condition can cause crushing.

Two parallel paths of broken wires,


indicative of bending through an undersize groove in the sheave

Drum groove type and condition can affect how a rope turns on to Image courtesy of Bridon International
a drum and can result in crushing damage, for example as the rope turns onto the next layer.

If correct back tension is not achieved when coiling a rope onto a drum, (see 8.2), severe crushing
damage can be caused to underlying layers when the rope comes under heavy load.

A rope that ‘cuts in’ to a lower layer on a drum due to bad spooling can jam and if the drum continues
to rotate the shock loading can severely damage or even break the rope and can cause significant
problems with the load itself.

5.6 Rotation

Rotation is a factor which can affect the efficient operation of a rope and in some circumstances can
cause premature deterioration. All ropes are liable to some degree of rotation in service, but
experience has shown that some ropes are not suitable where one end is free to rotate. Liaison with
the manufacturer to ensure the correct selection of rope helps to avoid this (see 12.8).

5.7 Cabling

Can occur when ropes with high rotation characteristics are used between blocks that are free to
rotate. Care needs to be taken in block and swivel connections as incorrect application can lead to
premature failure. Their use needs to be taken into consideration when establishing discard criteria.

5.8 Unlaying

Can occur if ropes of different types and lay are joined in series. Unlaying could lead to catastrophic
failure.

5.9 Vibration

Vibration can cause deterioration. Wire fractures can occur which might not be visible from outside
the rope. Also vibration of a wire against another object over a period of time can cause damage,
therefore in-service inspection should take this into account, as it may be necessary to adjust discard
criteria.

5.10 Elongation

Elongation occurs for a number of reasons:


♦ settlement of its components (bedding in) – occurs on new rope;
♦ elastic stretch due to tension in the rope - recoverable;
♦ inter-wire wear;
♦ temperature change - recoverable;
♦ rope rotation;

IMCA SEL 012 5


♦ splice slippage;
♦ overload – localised change of lay length can indicate deformation of a wire due to overload.

5.11 Other Deformations and Damage


♦ ‘Bird caging’ of the wire, is the condition whereby the outer part of the rope is stretched out
when the inner parts are not, causing a deformation known as bird caging. This can be caused
by excessive rotation, shock loading, incorrect use of a swivel
(see sketches below), inappropriate sheaves or heavy loading on
a new rope before its strands have settled into position. Other
stress or damage can have a significant affect on a wire rope’s
strength. Shock loading and torsional imbalance can cause
characteristic loops in the wires. Other damage could include Image courtesy of Bridon International

core popping, weld splatters and exposure to strong heat; funnel exhaust or chemical fumes for
example. Paint splashes or spills on wire can prevent lubrication.
♦ Distortion due to high pressure against a sheave or against improperly sized sheaves, or
grooves on a drum.
♦ Kinks caused when a rope cannot rotate around its axis to release torque.
♦ Flattening caused when a rope is bent severely over a sharp edge when the wires on the inside
of the bend are forced out of position.
♦ Misplaced outer wires can be caused by bad drum spooling or by being dragged over a sharp
edge.

Images courtesy of Bridon International


Severed by wear Plastic wear Severed by tension Sheared end

Mechanical damage due to rope Narrow path of wear, resulting in Severe wear, associated with high
movement over sharp edge projection fatigue fractures, caused by working in tread pressure
whilst under load a grossly oversized groove or over-
small support rollers

Severe corrosion Internal corrosion whilst external Typical wire fractures as a result of
surface shows little evidence of bend fatigue
deterioration

IMCA SEL 012 6


Images courtesy of Bridon International
Wire fractures at the strand, or core Break-up of IWRC, resulting from high Looped wires as a result of torsional
interface, as distinct from ‘crown’ stress application imbalance and/or shock loading
features

Typical example of localised wear and Protrusion of rope centre resulting Substantial wear and severe internal
deformation from build-up of turn (‘core popping’) corrosion

The rope twists as it takes the load and the twists are
brought over the first sheave in the system.

The twists spread along the available


rope length.

Part of the rope is


run back out over
the first sheave.

The swivel releases the twists outside


of the sheave system. The twists that
remain in the system spread along
the available rope length. Each lift
can increase the twists remaining
inside the system.

Sketch to show an example of the possible result of using a swivel with a rope that is not resistant to rotation.

IMCA SEL 012 7


6 Inspection and Testing

6.1 Overview

Inspections can be carried out at the beginning of each work period and at intermediate periods
identified in the vessel’s planned maintenance system (PMS). The definition of when a work period
starts depends upon a company’s own assessment of its particular operational activities. Inspections
would include, but not necessarily be limited to:
♦ statutory requirements;
♦ type of appliance and/or design of the system;
♦ operational environmental conditions;
♦ method and frequency of operation;
♦ manufacturer’s recommendations;
♦ results of previous inspections and examinations;
♦ experience with previous ropes on the appliance or system;
♦ analysis of usage history.

6.2 Records

Adequate records of inspections, tests, lubrication and usage are helpful additions to the formal
certification and a useful guide to the quality of the rope.

6.3 Inspection, Examination and Testing

Inspection, examination and testing could include, but not necessarily be limited to:
♦ external visual inspection of the complete rope length against a set of discard criteria;
♦ investigation as to the causes of broken wires or other visual damage (e.g. as in 5.11);
♦ system load and/or overload testing as appropriate ensuring that a suitable calibrated load cell
is used;
♦ cut-back and re-termination;
♦ NDT;
♦ destruction testing;
The frequency of inspection, examination and testing should comply with local legislation and company
policy.

The length, diameter of and access to a wire rope in the system in which it is rigged will need to be
considered in respect of the time and facilities required for inspection.

Each particular work site is different. An A&R winch drum could be laden with 600 or perhaps 3,600
metres of wire rope; if there is a large amount of rope on a reel, is there a convenient place that is
large enough to run it to in order to allow inspection?

On some occasions it may be possible to lower some of the rope into water; is the depth sufficient, is
it a practical area to do that? Would the weight of the rope be manageable?

Equipment required might for example include use of a diesel powered, deck mounted spooler or
another vessel such as a work boat with suitable equipment on board.

A vessel could have a complex system for ropes to be reeved through, which might mean that proper
inspection requires access to difficult or restrictive areas.

IMCA SEL 012 8


High importance should be given to considering what it means in practice to actually inspect and
maintain the wire rope in use at each work site in terms of time and equipment required, which in
turn relies on the accessibility of the rope and the work areas available. It can prove beneficial to keep
a record of the methods used for rope inspection, if only to assist new personnel in understanding
what is required and assist in the development of appropriate practices at work sites.

6.4 Damaged Ropes

Inspection should be increased after the first broken wires or other damage is noticed, or when
subjected to overload or other harm suspected. Company policy should set out the procedures for
the competent person (see 12.8) inspecting a damaged wire rope, if there is any doubt about its safe
operation. For example, the rope should not be used until it has undergone further examination and
tests and has been declared fit for further service.

An inspection is usually carried out immediately after any incident involving the use of a wire rope in
which there could have been damage to a rope, or a vessel, or an installation.

6.5 Types of Non-Destructive Testing

With smaller wire ropes it is possible, with the use of specialist tools, to open up the strands to
inspect the interior strands and core. As it is not always practical or possible to open up a wire rope,
such examination is sometimes complemented or substituted by using electro-magnetic or other non
destructive testing equipment, to detect broken wires and loss of cross sectional area. Equipment is
available which can scan wire ropes at the same speed as a pressure lubricator operates, thus it might,
in some situations, be convenient to carry out both tasks during one spooling operation.

With sheathed ropes inspection can be very much more difficult, apart from visual inspection of the
sheath. Ropes that are sheathed in this way could be heavy mooring ropes and there might be
difficulty in obtaining NDT equipment suitable for inspection.

An initial NDT signature print out may be requested at time of purchase for later comparison to aid
with a discard decision.

6.6 Inspection Relating to Storage and Transport of Wire Ropes

Company procedures can set out a system whereby the information obtained by the inspection
process is protected throughout a rope’s quarantine in storage. Points to consider include, but are
not necessarily limited to the following:
♦ making records of inspection on storage, which also cover the rope’s history of usage at that
time;
♦ recording whatever subsequent inspections that are practical and necessary during storage, or
prior to redeployment;
♦ establishing a method of securing a document trail to the rope, so that documentation such as
certificates, proof tests, damage reports, information as to the rope’s use and areas of wear
(for example which end had been immersed at depth, or loaded repeatedly over sheaves)
would be easily available. This would ease personnel’s assessment of which ropes were suitable
for deployment in various situations; and ease that deployment on board a vessel;
♦ establishing a method of identifying a wire rope by correlating it with its documentation, such
as by use of a fibre identifying tape laid into the rope during manufacture; a metal tag, on the
rope or in its termination socket, or by painting a colour coding on the rope;
♦ the method of marking the wire rope could also indicate if one end has been subject to
wear/immersion etc., as described above.

IMCA SEL 012 9


7 Storage
Ideal storage requires the following:
‹ clean, dry, well ventilated, covered areas;
‹ away from high temperatures or any effects of chemical fumes, steam or other corrosives;
‹ if open storage is inevitable, a waterproof covering should be arranged, using a breathable fabric to avoid
condensation problems;
‹ if stored on a reel for a long period, it is beneficial to rotate the reel periodically to prevent lubricant
seeping out of the rope, especially in warm environments;
‹ the wire rope should be stored clear of the ground or deck, on a timber grating that allows air to pass
beneath;
‹ manufacturers should supply details of suitable protective dressings that are available for storage purposes,
that would be compatible with the lubricant used;
‹ periodic inspections should be made.
‹ usage on a first come first out basis.

IMCA SEL 012 10


8 Transport

8.1 General

♦ Ideally in the same conditions as those recommended for storage.


♦ Care is needed to compensate for the expected environmental changes en route and to
prevent physical damage to the rope.

8.2 Deployment to Work Site

♦ On deployment to a vessel or other work site, the documentation accompanying the rope, as
specified in 6.6, will provide helpful information as to the expected quality of the rope and
whether it is correctly certified and appropriate for the required task;
♦ If the rope is to be taken from the storage reel and stowed on its working drum, correct
working procedures are necessary to ensure that the rope is not damaged in the process;
♦ For example, if moving a reel of wire rope with a fork lift, avoid contact with the rope by using
a shaft through the axis of the reel, or use a wide textile webbing sling, or if the fork is longer
than the width of the reel, lifting it on the reel’s flanges; or if a rope is being unwound onto a
deck ensure that the deck is clean so that the rope does not pick up grit;
♦ Examine the working drum for wear and damage; if it is a grooved drum, the groove size and
condition can be checked as being appropriate for the rope size and suitable for use. Ideally,
the groove contour will support about one third of the rope’s circumference;
♦ All sheaves and rollers that the rope will utilise should also be inspected to ensure good
condition, correct operation of moving parts such as swivels and ease of rotation of sheaves
and rollers;
♦ Depending on the size and weight of rope, different methods will be used to rig or load the
rope into its system. A suitably competent person (see 12. 8) would supervise the operation in
accordance with company procedures. Safety is paramount with all wire rope operations (see
12.3). For example, rope ends released from storage reels can move suddenly and violently.
Wire ropes secured to reels or shackled to equipment can have twists and retained torque in
them which are not apparent until the rope is released;
♦ If the rope needs to be reeved through a system whereby it is necessary to pull the rope
through with the use of another rope, some of the points that need to be kept in mind include:
ƒ Sometimes the only practical way might be to use the old rope to pull the new rope on.
This has a number of disadvantages however. The old rope will probably induce torsional
twist into the new rope and if this happens, the new rope will need to be flagged or
marked so that any turn inadvertently induced is taken out before it is secured to the
drum;
ƒ The connection between the two ropes must be safe. It must be able to withstand turning
through the sheaves and bending around any rollers or negotiating any other directional
changes, and sufficiently shaped to pass through all the throats and other possible choke
points in the system. Butt welding the ends of the wire ropes is unlikely to be adequate,
although it might be sufficient as part of a connection where a very simple installation is
possible;
ƒ The messenger rope should not be allowed to rotate. Rotation resistant rope or three
strand fibre ropes may be appropriate;
ƒ When using conventional wire ropes ensure that they have the same direction of lay as the
new rope;
ƒ Wire rope socks or ‘Chinese fingers’ can be used to connect the two ropes. The socks
need to be securely attached to the rope by a serving or a clip. If used on a Langs lay rope,
care needs to be taken that the Chinese finger does not unwind like a nut from a bolt –
wrapping that part of the rope with tape could help avoid that. The two socks can be
connected by a length of rope of adequate strength. This should avoid turns being induced
in the new wire rope. A swivel connection is not advisable because it can cause a new rope
to unwind as it is reeved;

IMCA SEL 012 11


ƒ Wire rope ends may have pad eyes or chain links welded on, or there might be a similar
fitting already on the rope end. If there is such a fitting and it is known to be safe, then
suitable strength fibre ropes, or thin wire ropes, or wire rope strands could be used to
connect the two. The twists that are induced in these ropes or strands during the
operation will indicate the intensity of torque in the old rope.
♦ The reel from which the rope is pulled should rotate (under control - see next bullet point) to
avoid kinking and subsequent severe damage to the rope, jeopardising its operational use;
♦ When wire ropes are being loaded onto their working drum, back tension should be applied to
maintain uniform reeling onto the drum. Manufacturer’s guidelines will usually indicate how
much back tension should be applied. The required tension is often given as a percentage of
the minimum breaking force of the rope, for example Bridon suggest a general guide for
installation tension of between 2% and 10% of the minimum breaking force of the rope whereas
another supplier suggests 1% to 2%. Although a wide range of tensions might be advised, a
practical application is to roll the rope on as tight as possible over and above the
manufacturer’s minimum;
♦ The method of achieving the required back tension must relate to the application and the
system concerned. For instance with a small, easily managed wire rope such as could be
manhandled around the deck, it could be possible to apply tension to a secured reel with a
simple lever used as a brake against the emptying reel flanges (not against the rope as this could
deform the rope beyond repair) a risk application should be made, the safest solution being a
piece of equipment made and risk assessed for the job; but with heavy ropes or those being
reeved into a system, more sophisticated methods of applying the back tension are required
utilising appropriate equipment, for example a diesel powered, deck mounted spooler;
♦ The rope should travel from top of reel to top of

Images courtesy of Bridon International


drum, or from under reel to under drum to avoid
reverse bending and putting a twist in the rope.
Correct reeling of a wire rope onto a drum is
important. Loose or unevenly wound wire will be
subject to crushing and distortion. The correct
direction of coiling (from left or right side depending
on the lay of the rope and whether under or over
the barrel) will assist the rope to wind on evenly.
Manufacturer’s guidelines will usually give advice on
the fleet angles required;

♦ The rope should be loaded onto the drum in even layers. Its condition can be constantly
checked as it is loaded, which is of especial importance if it is a previously used rope.
Lubrication and non destructive testing might be possible at this time;
♦ Extra care needs to taken in the handling of heavy sheathed ropes, due to difficulties of gripping
the sheathing when the rope might be slipping inside it;
♦ After the rope is installed, it is advisable to run through its cycle under light loads several times,
to help component parts to settle in and adjust themselves to the actual operating conditions
before subjecting the system to any overload tests prior to actual operation; this will help to
avoid damage to the rope which might otherwise occur on its first heavy test loading. If ‘light’
loading is difficult to define, manufacturers may be able to advise as a percentage of s.w.l.;
♦ During the first few operational weeks after installation, inspection is advisable on each day of
operations.

IMCA SEL 012 12


9 Maintenance

9.1 Overview

Good practice would require that the maintenance of the wire rope is specific to the particular
operation, its use, its environment and the type of rope involved. The manufacturer should provide a
rope that is lubricated properly for its expected use. Unless otherwise indicated by the manufacturer,
a good maintenance regime would ensure that the wire rope is cleaned, lubricated and covered with
an appropriate service dressing, particularly on those lengths which pass through and around sheaves
and/or are used subsea. It would be essential to check that any cleaning fluid, lubrication and service
dressing are compatible with the original lubricant used by the wire rope manufacturer.
Manufacturers would also be able to advise whether pressure lubrication is suitable for a specific wire,
or if not what method of lubrication and lubricant is recommended. Pressure lubrication needs to be
carried out with care by operators trained in using the equipment (see also 12.5).

Lubrication is be more effective on a clean rope, and cleaning will usually help remove corrosion; but
cleaning wire ropes effectively is sometimes difficult, not just because of the arduous nature of the
task, but because there are possibilities of damaging the rope or its lubricant.

Maintenance can also include removing broken wire ends. It is essential to note the condition of the
rope in the vicinity of a wire break, as more than one break within a short distance could indicate a
more serious problem. As a wire rope ages, broken wires can start to appear, usually as a result of
constant fatigue. These can be broken off to prevent them damaging the rest of the rope and indeed
to prevent injury to handlers. It is usually best to bend them from side to side with pliers (not cutting
through the wire) until they break off within the lay of the strands of the rope. Appropriate PPE
should be used. When wires are broken off in this way, a record should be kept of their location on
the rope. In this way, if wires continue to break in the same area it will indicate a potential danger in
the rope’s use. Investigation can then be made as to the causes of broken wires.

Rope attachment points are particularly prone to deterioration. Provided there is spare rope within
the system, and the remainder of the rope is sound, it may be possible to cut back the affected end of
the rope and re-terminate. In some applications it may be viable to reverse the rope end for end, but
this will depend on its particular operational use and company procedures. Both methods could shift
the areas of wear to unworn parts of the rope and possibly increase the service life of the rope.

This guidance does not deal with maintenance of sheaves, swivels, rollers and other components of
the rope system, but clearly their maintenance will affect the rope’s safety and service life (see also
12.4).

If wire ropes are removed from drums for maintenance purposes it is important to rewind them
correctly (see 8.2 above).

Maintenance is also affected to an extent by the practical and physical aspects of handling the wire
rope, access to the wire rope and the system into which it is rigged. Other relevant factors include
but are not limited to the following:
‹ Periodical cleaning of wire ropes can be very helpful to combat corrosion, make lubrication more
beneficial and to assist when examining a rope. The effects of using steam or high pressure water
jet should be considered in relation to what such cleaning might do to the lubricant in the rope.
Wire brush equipment and air blast systems can perhaps be used and it is necessary for each
operator to decide what is properly appropriate.
‹ The length and diameter will affect the time required to carry out the maintenance, as will
availability of access to all parts of the wire rope from suitable working areas.
‹ The environmental conditions that the wire rope is working in will also be a consideration when
deciding the frequency of maintenance operations.
‹ The operating cycle and frequency of use.
‹ Which areas of the wire rope will remain exposed to the elements when the rope is not in use.
‹ Which parts of the rope may be subject to wear from the system that it is reeved through or
even from gradual impact damage because of motion of the vessel.

IMCA SEL 012 13


It would be useful if all of these factors could be considered at the design stage of a vessel, or at the
planning stage of a new project.

9.2 Lubrication

Good lubrication extends the life of the wire rope. The manufacturer should provide a rope that is
lubricated properly for its expected use. This is only likely to last for a limited time in practice,
depending entirely on the use and environment that the rope is subjected to and exists in.
Maintenance should ensure continued lubrication as required and when pressure lubrication is not
practicable other methods should be used, such as spreading or brushing penetrating lubricant in
accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations. Correct PPE should be used (see 12.5).
Lubrication may not always be achieving the optimum result and it can be difficult to ascertain whether
it is. Examination of cut back sections will assist in this. A regular, timely or planned discard policy
should help ensure that a system does not fail, and a practical balance needs to be achieved.

9.3 Maintenance Timetable

Wire rope maintenance is usually carried out periodically under a vessel’s planned maintenance system
(PMS), taking into account the usage of the rope and the environment that it is working in. While this
guidance is not directly concerned with the PMS, it is unlikely that a wire rope system would be
subject to appropriate inspection, maintenance and tests unless an adequate PMS existed. An example
of a possible utilisation matrix is given at Appendix 1.

The different ways in which identical wires are used in the industry has resulted in guidance from
manufacturers being only generic. It would be prudent for the relevant competent person (see 12.8)
in a company to identify and carefully assess the particular usage, revert to the manufacturer and
check how that usage will affect the manufacturer’s recommendations and the wire rope’s anticipated
working life.

IMCA SEL 012 14


10 Discard Criteria
Companies establish their own criteria for the discard of ropes. Examination of differing operational
environments and types of rope use can highlight the results of different stresses and wear placed on ropes.
Life expectancy of a rope can vary significantly dependant on its use so that each user needs to apply specific
discard criteria.

Suggested criteria for discard are destruct/NDT test failures, but visual inspection would take priority over
incremental service life. The condition of the rope when discard is thought necessary is as presently described
in ISO 4309, 1990. The following examination results are examples which could lead to discard:
♦ nature and number of broken wires;
♦ broken wires at the termination;
♦ localised grouping of wire breaks;
♦ rate of increase of wire breaks;
♦ fracture of strands;
♦ reduction of rope diameter, resulting from core or external deterioration;
♦ decrease in elasticity;
♦ external and internal wear;
♦ external and internal corrosion;
♦ deformation;
♦ damage due to heat or electric arcing;
♦ rate of increase of permanent elongation;
♦ decision based on usage history/loadings;
♦ reduction in tensile strength;
♦ exceeding defined life cycles (see 12.2);
♦ After a prescribed number of years service (see 12.2);
♦ Unusual features - for example rope giving out red dust; local reduction in diameter.

How much of the above list can be dealt with by the personnel on site and how much by contracted specialist
laboratory services is to a large extent dependent on each company’s personnel and facilities.

Removing old wire ropes from drums can be dangerous. They can move violently and suddenly as they unwind
from a reel and also when they are disconnected. Personnel removing old wire ropes from systems must also
be alert to the possibility of broken wires which have potential to cause injury.

IMCA SEL 012 15


11 Documentation/Records
It is important for each wire rope to have its own identification and a method of linking the rope to its
documentation (see 6.6). It would be helpful if a data sheet with all periodic maintenance, examination and test
results recorded could be accessed by personnel as required.

Wire rope records should be entered in whatever form of PMS is in place and the records kept up to date.

Critical (see 12.1) wire ropes usage history can be recorded in the PMS.

Certificates of original examinations, inspections, load test certificates and destruct tests can be retained in the
equipment file.

Copies of in-date certificates could accompany the wire rope in its movements to and from work sites and be
available when requested. Copies of various documents could be electronic or on paper.

IMCA SEL 012 16


12 Notes

12.1 Critical Ropes

Companies can identify which ropes are considered critical, that is which require the most attention in
terms of inspection and maintenance.

12.2 Discard Criteria

Discard criteria might be based on the number of cycles that a wire rope performs, or a period of
time, or because of some particular tangible factor detected on inspection, or at re-termination; such
as the point at which a wire’s protective galvanised coating starts to show signs of wear, or where
other signs of wear are considered critical.

12.3 Safety

Working with wire rope is fraught with safety issues. Primarily there is always a risk of a wire failing in
service. But there is a wide range of injuries that can result from working with wire ropes, ranging
from cuts by broken strands, to death from, for example, breaking or violently moving ropes, being
caught in bights, or by being dragged into reels. This guidance does not specifically deal with safety
issues, other than those limited to wire rope lubrication listed at 12.5 and those relating to cutting
ropes at 12.6, but companies need to adhere to stringent, effective safety procedures when dealing
with wire rope maintenance and such procedures should be paramount when creating wire rope
maintenance policies. Most work with large wire ropes requires task plans and risk assessments that
should be produced well in advance of the work.

12.4 Machinery

This guidance does not cover aspects of the maintenance of winch machinery, control systems or any
other mechanical equipment or plant. These could have a significant place in respect of the
maintenance of wire ropes, but would be likely to be covered by a company’s PMS.

12.5 Lubricating Wire ropes

Precautions for personnel involved in lubricating wire ropes include but are not limited to:
♦ Various ingredients used in rope lubricants are categorised as hazardous, although in normal
usage reasonable care should be sufficient to prevent harm. Where persistent and/or repetitive
skin contact is unavoidable, personnel should maintain high standards of hygiene to avoid skin
disorders.
♦ Appropriate PPE should be worn when handling rope lubricants and dressings, such as oil-
resistant gloves/oil repellent barrier creams and protective clothing.
♦ Refer to manufacturer’s safety data for the rope lubricant in use.
♦ Obtain First Aid for any injury, however slight.
♦ Wash thoroughly after work and before meals or toilet breaks.
♦ Do not use solvents to remove oil from skin (e.g. paraffin) or use dirty rags when cleaning up.
♦ Do not wear oil soaked clothing.
♦ Do not put oily rags, tools etc. into pockets.

12.6 Cutting Wire Ropes


When cutting wire ropes, precautions that need to be taken include but are not limited to:
♦ Note manufacturer’s instructions, particularly with regard to serving.
♦ Prior to cutting, secure servings should be applied each side of the cut location.

IMCA SEL 012 17


♦ The number of servings depends on the type of rope. If the rope is for example rotation
resistant or low rotation type, or non-preformed, multi–layer or parallel closed type, at least
two servings either side of the cut will be necessary. Refer to manufacturer’s instructions.
♦ Position and/or secure the rope to cater for sudden movement by the two parts of the rope
when cut, allowing for a suitable straight length of rope each side of the cut.
♦ Cutting up to 8mm rope can be done with hand cutters, after which mechanical or hydraulic
cutters are necessary. High speed abrasive disc cutters are often used. Flame cutting is not
recommended unless the wire rope is being discarded. Use appropriate PPE. Be aware of
danger from sparks, disc break-up and fumes.
♦ If cutting lubricated rope, heat from the cutting method may create toxic fumes from the
lubricant and/or toxic fumes or dust from material in the rope itself. Heated lubricant can also
emanate from a rope and cause burns.
♦ Ensure adequate ventilation, avoid build-up of fumes.
♦ After cutting, the ends of the rope may need to be welded or brazed to secure the wires and
strands. Refer to manufacturer’s instructions relating to the particular type of rope.

12.7 IMCA Safety Cards

IMCA pocket safety cards are useful reminders of safe working practices. Relevant cards produced at
the time of publication are:
‹ Manual handling safety guide (no. 1)
‹ Preventing slips and trips (no. 2)
‹ Toolbox talks (no. 3)
‹ Lifting operations safety guide (no. 4)
‹ Lifting equipment safety guide (no. 5)
‹ Working at height (no. 6)

12.8 Memoranda for Ordering Wire Ropes

Manufacturers will usually provide guidance as to the expected life of their products, but such guidance
needs to relate to the actual usage of the wire rope. Wire rope construction has become very
sophisticated and there needs to be complete understanding between manufacturers and end users in
respect to what is required from a wire rope.

Those involved with a project during the design phase, such as for example the engineers and project
managers, need to assess wire rope requirements at an early stage in order to ensure compatibility of
the rope for the purposes of the project.

Thus when a ‘competent person’ is referred to in this guidance it may not always be possible for it to
be one person. The range of experience and knowledge required for some wire rope projects can be
very wide. There is a need for both manufacturer and end-user to fully understand both the
requirements and the compatibility of the ropes available. Companies can encourage manufacturers to
provide the appropriate rope by early involvement, perhaps involving site visits.

The competent person in a company (see above) can advise the manufacturer of the expected
environment and usage of a rope and they should work together to produce a purchase specification,
with particular focus on:
♦ description of the rope’s purpose;
♦ the relevant classification society ;
♦ the anticipated loads;
♦ length, diameter and safe working load;
♦ whether rotating or rotation resistant rope needed;
♦ wire construction;

IMCA SEL 012 18


♦ fittings for the rope terminations;
♦ the amount of sheaves and rollers that a wire rope will be rigged to pass through and over;
♦ whether any swivel connections are needed (or should be avoided) and where;
♦ the size and arrangement of sheave blocks and winch drums;
♦ whether winch drums are grooved and the condition and size of the grooves;
♦ heave compensation requirements;
♦ the number of load cycles expected;
♦ whether sub-sea use envisaged if so, depth, pressure, water penetration;
♦ lubrication requirements;
♦ environmental factors of anticipated operational area(s);
♦ factors of safety required;
♦ handling, transport and storage; wire ropes can delivered in a coil on a pallet, or up to 750 kg.
on a simple one-use timber cross reel; up to 1500kg. on a stabilised re-usable timber cross reel;
over 1500kg. on a wooden or steel reel which can also be lagged for rope protection;
additional plastic or jute wrapping can be provided for sea transport or storage in a difficult
environment; check with the provider for the appropriate method;
♦ pre-tension requirements;
♦ back tension needed when spooling on to winch drum;
♦ winch drum and rigging – size, type and strength requirements;
♦ documentation needed, for example:
ƒ maintenance and handling instructions,
ƒ actual break load certification of full rope (not just of the strands)
ƒ serving instructions
ƒ lubrication instructions
ƒ what type of drum the rope is to be delivered on
ƒ test certificates
ƒ specification sheets for all items provided by the vendor (wire, sockets, drum, rigging for
drum)
ƒ certificates for all items provided by the vendor(wire, sockets, drum, rigging for drum);
♦ possibly some basic calculation of anticipated wear.

The manufacturer is likely to need this information before a reasonable estimate of life span can be
given. The list is not necessarily exhaustive, but all these points need to be included at the design
stage of a new vessel or at the planning stage of a new project.

IMCA SEL 012 19


13 Appendices

13.1 Example Wire Rope Utilisation Matrix


This appendix shows a typical matrix from a company manual as used to list maintenance, certification
and discard criteria for various wire ropes in use. Each company may need to demonstrate its
procedures by its own means; this matrix is only an example of what might be done.

IMCA SEL 012 20


Appendix 1

Example Wire Rope Utilisation Matrix

The information given in the columns of this example matrix is merely for guidance as to
how a matrix might be completed and is not meant to indicate that a particular wire rope is
to be used for the applications indicated.

IMCA SEL 012 21


Appendix 1 – Example Wire Rope Utilisation Matrix
IMCA SEL 012

Maintenance
Certification
Utilisation/Plant Wire Type Subsea Application Standards (see company Discard Criteria
Procedure
procedures)

VLS Abandonment & Rotation resistant Yes Non ISO 4309 (Insert code to (Insert standard As per annual examination and test
Recovery Winch Wires Man-Riding BS-6570, company requirements for results, every (enter number) years or
Utility BS-302 procedure) inspection meeting any of the criteria detailed in
periods)) company procedures.
BS-3578,
BS-5744
DNV 1994
Pulling Winch Wires Galvanised RHOL Yes Non ISO 4309 As per annual examination and test
Umbilical Winches Rotation resistant Man-Riding BS-6570, results, every (enter number) years or
Utility BS-302 meeting any of the criteria detailed in
company procedures.
BS-3578,
BS-5744
Non Man-Riding Rotation resistant Yes Non ISO 4309 As per annual examination and test
Tugger Man-Riding BS-6570, results, every (enter number) years or
Utility BS-302 meeting any of the criteria detailed in
company procedures.
BS-3578,
BS-5744
IMCA D018
Heave Compensation RHOL No Non ISO 4309 As per annual examination and test
Systems Wires Rotation resistant Man-Riding BS-6570, results, every (enter number) years or
(Stumpy & Plough) Dynamic Load BS-302 meeting any of the criteria detailed in
company procedures.
BS-3578,
BS-5744
Tensioner Wires RHOL No Non ISO 4309 As per annual examination and test
Rotation Resistant Man-Riding BS-6570, results, every (enter number) years or
Dynamic Load BS-302 meeting any of the criteria detailed in
company procedures.
BS-3578,
BS-5744
22
IMCA SEL 012

Maintenance
Certification
Utilisation/Plant Wire Type Subsea Application Standards (see company Discard Criteria
Procedure
procedures)

Subsea Winch Wires Rotation resistant Yes Non ISO 4309 As per annual examination and test
galvanised Man-Riding BS-6570, results, every (enter number) years or
Utility BS-302 meeting any of the criteria detailed in
company procedures.
BS-3578,
BS-5744
Guide Line Wires Rotation resistant Yes Non ISO 4309 As per annual examination and test
galvanised Man-Riding BS-6570, results, every (enter number) years or
Dynamic Load BS-302 meeting any of the criteria detailed in
company procedures.
BS-3578,
BS-5744
Lifting/Rigging Wires RHOL No Non BS-1290 As per annual examination and test
Rotation resistant Man-Riding BS-6166 results, every (enter number) years or
Utility BS-6210 meeting any of the criteria detailed in
company procedures.
Towing wires To be advised by As per annual examination and test
manufacturer results, every (enter number) years or
meeting any of the criteria detailed in
company procedures.
Mooring wires To be advised by API RP 21 As per annual examination and test
manufacturer results, every (enter number) years or
meeting any of the criteria detailed in
company procedures.
Lifting slings To be advised by BS 6210 As per annual examination and test
manufacturer DIN EN 13414 results, every (enter number) years or
meeting any of the criteria detailed in
BS 1290
company procedures.
1SO 8792
23