Exposure to Green Seas on Deck Results in Accident

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Summary:

On 21 January 2017, the vessel encountered particular adverse weather conditions. The swell was from the Northwest, with wave heights of about 5.5 m. Visibility was moderate to good. Immensity was also experiencing gale force wind from the North Northwest. The vessel was rolling heavily and pitching, and experiencing significant accelerations.

At about 1430, the course was altered towards the North Northwest to minimise the vessel’s movement, as much as possible. The situation had improved and the vessel was not experiencing particular rolling and pitching. However, concerned on the condition of the cargo lashings on the main deck, the master decided to carry out an inspection of the area. At about 1900, the master, the chief mate and the bosun made their way on deck. The inspection on deck did not reveal any damages to the cargo or its lashings.

The three crew members made their way back to the accommodation after ascertaining that there was no slackness in the lashing and the cargo condition was satisfactory. At one point in time, the vessel was hit by an unexpected wave, which was powerful enough to knock the chief mate from his feet. The chief mate lost his balance and fell to the deck. It was not excluded that he also hit against the hatch coaming.

The chief mate was assisted by the master and the bosun to the accommodation.

Probable cause:

The direct cause of the accident was a high energy trauma caused by exposure to green seas on deck.

It may be submitted that the risk of working on deck in adverse weather conditions had been appreciated by the crew members, even because the vessel’s course was altered to minimise the ship’s movements (and to minimise possible cargo damage).

It was also understandable that there was significant concern of slack lashing as a result of the adverse weather conditions. This may also be suggestive that the crew members were not expecting such weather; otherwise the lashings and deck cargo would have been inspected and tightened (were necessary) before the bad weather had been encountered.

Notwithstanding the above, and irrespective of the fact that the vessel’s course had been altered, accessing the deck in adverse weather conditions was indicative of risk acceptance. This was, however, out of necessity. The associated risk of working on an open deck during dark hours had been accepted because of the associated outcome, i.e. verification that the vessel’s cargo and its lashing were safe.

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Source: Transport Malta

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