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The History of Yokohama Fenders / Pneumatic Fenders

These type of fenders are the #1 option for STS operations, world-wide.

Tankers’ Ship-to-ship (STS) operations mostly uses this type of self-floating, long useful life fender. Industry-wide known as pneumatic fenders, but why are they also called Yokohama fenders by many?

This type of marine fender works fundamentally different than the solid rubber type fenders. These use pressurised air to absorb collision energy – based on principles of pneumatics.

They are (relatively) light and easy-to-deploy. Good quality ones can be used for a very long time. These floating fenders have many other types and advantages.

In this article however, is to discuss a lesser-known aspect of this popular equipment in maritime.


Where did the idea come from? And when?

Short answers: Japan. After World-War II.

So, Why are they commonly referred to as ‘Yokohama Fenders’?

Yokohama was the first company approached to design such a fender. Hence, the name.

The traditional way was to find and use dead whales as large fenders for bigger ships. After the World-War, many turned to find a better, more constant man-made equipment as the usage of dead whales has many downsides to it.

Rubber was thought to be a great material. So being the most trusted rubber tyre manufacture in Japan at the time, the ‘Yokohama’ company was approached to design up a suitable solution.

The first big issue was that making a fender straight-up using rubber would be too costly. Let’s take for example, a size of a pretty standard diameter 3.3m x 6.5m size fender today. Theoretically that would need >70m3 of rubber material. The projected costs made it unfeasible.

The company managed to eventually come up with the idea of using the principles of pneumatic. Pressurised air absorbs energy well enough with a reasonable reaction force.

Today, commonly used working pressures of pneumatic fenders are 50 kPa and 80kPa.

Historically, yokohama fenders was not the only man-made solution

For decades, these floating fenders were not the only ones used during mooring.

They were used in conjunction with some wheel-shape fenders and many smaller-sized secondary fenders. Those small secondary fenders were said to be used to protect the stern and the bow from unexpected contact. Wheel type fenders were used at further outs while the yokohamas were used in inner areas along the midbody.

Fenders were usually secured to the ship that’s manoeuvring.

Yokohama type fenders today

The story of the origin of these fenders is indeed a very interesting development of the industry.

Today, these awesome low-cost, low-maintenance fenders are governed by ISO Standard ISO17357:2014.

ISO 17357-2:2014 specifies the material, performance, and dimensions of floating pneumatic rubber fenders

Throughout the years, there are many manufacturers that strive to develop the technologies and manufacturing capabilities. In this era, other manufacturers seem to be catching up in delivering high grade, long useful life “yokohama-type” fenders as well.



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