Poor Stevedoring Practices Results in Fatal Accident

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On 18 December 2016, a bosun of the bulk carrier ‘Graig Rotterdam’ fell overboard and into a barge, losing his life. UK MAIB issued an investigation report about the accident.

The incident:

On 18 December 2016, the bulk carrier ‘Graig Rotterdam’ was discharging a deck cargo of packaged timber at anchor in Alexandria Port, Egypt.

That day, the bosun,  of Chinese nationality, fell overboard and into a barge that was secured alongside after the timber deck cargo stack on which he was standing partially collapsed.

The ship’s crew provided first-aid to the bosun following the accident, but he succumbed to his injuries.

Probable cause:

According to UK MAIB, poor stevedoring practices probably contributed to the unsecured cargo stack collapsing and no measures were in place to prevent the bosun from falling overboard.

Furthermore, after the removal of the deck cargo lashings, the cargo packages had insufficient racking strength to counter the effects of ship movement, cargo repositioning and cargo discharge operations over a prolonged period.UK MAIB emphasizes that, poor stevedoring practices had previously been witnessed by the ship’s crew, but were not discussed and so they were allowed to continue.

Conclusions:

  • It has not been possible to establish with certainty how the accident occurred. However, poor stevedoring practices probably contributed to the unsecured cargo stack collapsing, and no measures were in place to prevent the bosun from falling overboard as a result.
  • With the deck cargo lashings removed, the cargo packages stowed on deck had insufficient stability to counter the effects of ship movement, cargo repositioning, dunnage displacement, barges securing to deck cargo stacks, and cargo discharge operations over a prolonged period.
  • The use of uprights would have helped prevent a deck cargo stack from collapsing once the securing lashings had been removed.
  • Prior to loading, the master was not advised of either the deck cargo package racking strength or the frictional resistance of its plastic covering. Such information would have enabled him to make a more informed assessment of the deck cargo stack’s stability and security.
  • Poor stevedoring practices that had previously been witnessed by the ship’s crew were not discussed with the stevedores’ foreman and so were allowed to continue. Graig Ship Management Limited’s SMS instructions were silent on the need to proactively engage with shore stevedores for the purpose of maintaining a safe system of work during cargo operations.
  • A supercargo had not been appointed to supervise the cargo discharge operation, and so a valuable point of liaison between the ship’s crew and the shore stevedores was unavailable.
  • Without the provision of a lifeline, there were no readily available means for attaching a safety harness. Without edge protection or any means of fall arrest, the risk of falling from the top of a deck cargo stack, or as a result of a deck cargo stack collapse, was significant.
  • The ship’s crew did not consider the level of risk while on passage to warrant the need for a catwalk to be installed or for safety harnesses to be worn. This lack of recognition extended to the increased risk of falling during cargo discharge operations. A contributing factor to these omissions is likely to have been both the master’s and chief officer’s lack of previous experience of carrying timber deck cargo, despite this being a stated aspiration in the company’s SMS.

Recommendations:

UK MAIB recommended Graig Ship Management Limited to reinforce and modify its Safety Management System with respect to the carriage of timber cargoes in order to ensure:

  • A lifeline or other means for attaching a safety harness is available to counter the risk of ship’s crew or shore stevedores falling from the top of a deck cargo stack or as a result of a deck cargo stack collapse,
  • Where possible, appoint a master or chief officer with experience of the cargo type being carried,
  • Ship’s crew proactively engage with shore stevedores for the purpose of maintaining a safe system of work during cargo operations

Additionally, Norlat Shipping Limited has been recommended, by UK MAIB to ensure that all cargo information, as required by the IMO’s ‘Code of Safe Practice for Ships Carrying Timber Deck Cargoes’, is provided to the master or his representative before loading cargo for all ships that it charters to carry timber deck cargo.

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Source: MAIB

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