Lessons Learned From A Compressor Accident Aboard A Cruise Ship


  • An incident involving a compressor aboard a large cruise ship serves as a reminder of the risks and precautions necessary when working with heavy equipment.
  • The incident involved a team of specialist contractors working on a 1,865 kg compressor in the engine room.
  • The process of replacing the compressor’s mounts required the use of chain blocks and other lifting equipment, as well as careful handling due to the compressor’s offset center of mass.

As the cruise ship began its departure in windy and rippled sea conditions, the compressor shifted from its suspended position, crushing one of the contractors working beneath it. The injured contractor sustained severe injuries, including multiple rib fractures, a punctured chest wall, and a fractured collarbone. The contractor was later airlifted to a hospital.

Risk Assessment and Instability

The ship’s departure and the resulting movement subjected the lifting arrangements to instability, causing the load to shift and fall onto the contractor. Working beneath suspended loads should be avoided whenever possible, and additional precautions should be taken to prevent accidents. The risk of vessel and compressor movement should have been considered.

Compliance with Regulations

Proper planning and compliance with The Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment) Regulations are essential. This includes conducting risk assessments, ensuring lifting equipment has adequate strength and stability, and ensuring operations are planned by a competent person and executed safely. In this case, these requirements were not met, leading to a near-fatal accident.

Proper Planning and Execution

Utilizing only one of the two certificated deckhead fixed rings, as well as cable trays, pipe brackets, and connecting chains, was unsuitable for lifting the load. A comprehensive lifting plan involving senior officers and technical staff should have been developed, considering the appropriate lifting method, equipment, timing, and environmental conditions. Proper planning and collaboration could have prevented the accident.

Overall, this incident underscores the importance of risk assessment, adherence to regulations, and thorough planning when performing lifting operations on board vessels. Working alone or in isolation, even as part of a team, can lead to serious consequences if proper precautions are not taken.

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Source: MAIB