Fatal Accident During Cargo Discharge in Antwerp

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A stevedore on board a general cargo ship was fatally crushed between the gantry crane and a hatch cover during cargo discharge in Antwerp, Belgium. Despite no one witnessing the incident, it is believed that he positioned himself between the moving gantry crane and the hatch cover to check on his team’s progress working in the hold.

What Happened

A general cargo ship moored starboard side to berth, at a bulk terminal, to unload its cargo of fine coke, also known as ‘coke breeze’. The weather was cloudy, with light rain and a gentle breeze coming from the north. Between midnight and 0600 hours, the third officer on watch was operating the ship’s gantry crane to stack the hatch covers, following the cargo unloading plan.

At 0600 hours, five stevedores boarded the ship to begin unloading the cargo. The team consisted of a foreman, a stevedore coordinator, a front-end loader driver, and two dockworkers/cleaners. Another team member remained onshore to operate the discharge grab crane. The foreman discussed the unloading plan with the chief officer (C/O) in English and briefed the rest of his team. Unloading started at the aft end of the hold, with the foreman instructing that hatch covers 7 to 11 should be moved once this area completed discharge. The foreman then left the ship while the stevedore coordinator, loader driver, and dockworkers remained on board.

The stevedore coordinator directed the shoreside crane operator from the ship’s port side walkway using a handheld radio. To oversee the operation, he climbed the ship’s fixed ladders and leaned over the top of the 2m high hatch coaming to view the progress inside the cargo hold. Meanwhile, the C/O and an able-bodied seaman (AB) remained on board with the C/O monitoring cargo operations and the ship’s stability, while the AB maintained security at the gangway to monitor mooring lines and fendering.

Shortly before 0900 hours, as the unloading of the aft part of the hold neared completion, the stevedore coordinator confirmed with the C/O that, once the front-end loader had been lifted into the hold by the shore crane, hatch covers 7 to 11 would be moved aft and stacked at the hatch cover 11 position. The transfer of the front-end loader into the hold was supervised by the coordinator, and once completed, the C/O made his way to the ship’s gantry crane, while the stevedore coordinator proceeded towards the forward end of the hold via the port walkway.

The C/O ensured that the gantry crane’s path was clear on both sides of the main deck before climbing up to the crane’s control position. He then moved the crane forward and positioned it over the hatch covers stacked on hatch cover 7. Next, he connected hatch cover 11 to the crane, lifted it clear, and moved the crane aft, lowering the hatch cover into position. The C/O then climbed down to the main deck and walked around the hatch cover to confirm it had seated fittingly on both sides before returning to the crane’s control position to proceed to collect hatch cover 9.

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Source: Britannia