Coast Guard Issues Safety Alert Over Wire Rope Concerns

The Coast Guard has released a safety alert because of issues with certain wire rope terminations that can lead to catastrophic failures.

“An ongoing safety investigation following the catastrophic failure of a new wire rope provided by SWWR [Southwest Wire Rope] within a month of being newly installed has revealed several discrepancies in the company’s product fabricating procedures and quality management processes,” the Coast Guard said in Safety Alert 08-21, issued November 9.

The alert addresses the importance of verifying the condition, manufacturing and physical specifications of wire rope purchased either directly from SWWR or fabricated by the company and sold through other vendors. SWWR-fabricated fittings are typically marked with gold paint, but paperwork related to SWWR products should also be verified, the Coast Guard said. 

In the case under investigation, the wire rope was found not to match the specifications on the purchase order and provided receipt. The Coast Guard alert says the product “was both constructed of the wrong components and with an improperly applied fitting than what the client actually ordered. Additionally, the Coast Guard observed discrepancies in the subject wire rope’s improperly applied swaged fittings and the use of the incorrect size of swaged fittings, which resulted in unintentional damage to the wire rope and eventual catastrophic failure of the termination.”

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The Coast Guard “strongly recommends” that owners, manufacturers, operators and service providers utilizing wire rope verify the source and manufacturer and, if purchased or fabricated by SWWR, carefully observe the specifications to ensure they match the product purchased, including number of wires per strand, wire strands and rope lay.

The Coast Guard also suggested:
• Examining wire rope terminations for any abnormalities that could indicate improper installation. Ridges or abnormalities could be indicative of over-crimping, but any abnormalities need to be verified based on the type of crimp and manufacturing die used in the crimping process.
• Comparing fitting dimensions against the manufacturer’s specifications/tolerances for the completed fitting (i.e., does the length and diameter fall within fitting manufacturer specifications?)

• Verifying that the termination type does not reduce the safe working load of the wire rope below the minimum safety factor for the type of service.

• Removing the wire rope from service if any abnormalities are detected and replacing it.

Anyone unsure whether wire rope may be affected or anyone with ongoing concerns about the products should reach out to the company directly, to the nearest Coast Guard marine inspector or to the Coast Guard National Centers of Expertise.