Three Killed During Cargo Operation


What Happened:

During discharge of copper sulfide concentrate, oxygen-deficient air was inhaled, leading to anoxia.


A General cargo ship carrying copper concentrate, berthed at a wharf for discharging a cargo load of copper sulfide concentrate.  One of the workers while descending a ladder inside No. 3 cargo hold,  to undertake the job of stevedoring, inhaled oxygen deficient air, and died due to anoxia.  Two of the three other workers who went to rescue him also collapsed in the cargo hold.  All of the three workers were rescued from No. 3 cargo hold, but later they were confirmed dead.




  • The copper concentrate loaded in cargo hold No. 3 had oxidized during transportation, and the oxygen in airtight cargo hold No.3 had been consumed, creating an oxygen-deficient environment.
  • The Foreman was not aware of the oxygen-deficient atmosphere in cargo hold No.3.
  • The cargo operation supervisors including the Foreman was not aware of the concept or the procedure to check O2 concentration and the ship staff did not instruct them to follow the safe procedure.
  • There were workers who had a misunderstanding that oxygen-deficient conditions in cargo holds were removed by natural ventilation as time passed after opening the hatch covers.  (Odorous gases, heavier than air, generated by the flotation reagents accumulated at the lower layer of the hold, and were not replaced by air).
  • Gas masks are not enough or will not save life when worn in oxygen deficient atmosphere.


Lesson learned:

  • The contracted ‘stevedoring’ company must train all employees and made aware of the risks that people are being exposed to.
  • Risk assessments and tool box talks does not apply to ships’ staff alone but also for the contracted employees who board ships for designated jobs.
  • The company must train all employees, who have the possibility of being engaged in cargo operation, with the handling of O2 meters in order to measure O2 concentrations safely and surely as necessary.
  • Request the MSDS of floatation reagents from shippers.
  • Make the risks of oxygen-deficient conditions and anoxia known to all personnel who have the possibility of being engaged in cargo operation and to familiarize them with appropriate coping behavior in case of fatal accidents.
  • It is very essential to have personal oxygen meters and continuous gas monitors employed during hazardous cargo operations.
  • It is essential that the shipboard safety officer and the cargo officer are aware of the risks involved and be responsible for every person’s life who are contracted for work during port stay.
  • The shore team supervisors must convey a documented plan and safety procedures to the cargo officer on board the ship before the commencement of the cargo operations.
  • When on board the ship, every personnel who work must comply with the safety rules which ever stringent (may it be the shipping company or the shore based company safety standards).

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Source: MLIT


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