Oxygen Deficient Cargo Hold Entry Horror!


The Hellenic Bureau for Marine Casualties Investigation has released an interim report regarding the death of a seafarer and serious injury of Stevedore.

About the vessel

M/V Ionic, under Greek Flag, was laden with Zinc and Copper from Huelva, Spain. On 9th of August 2015 at evening time she arrived in Fangcheng port, China. At approximately 23:30 mooring operation was completed and she had moored alongside her starboard side at berth 17. IONIC is a 59000 tons Bulk Carrier, built-in 2013.

She was designed with 5 cargo holds equipped with folding type hatch covers and geared with 4 cranes. Each cargo hold was accessed from the main deck through two hatch coaming entrances structured with vertical and Australian (spiral) ladders.

No 1 cargo hold was fitted with the Australian ladder at its aft section while the vertical ladder was fitted at its forward section. The configuration of access to cargo holds no 2, 3, 4 and 5 is the diametrical opposite as the Australian ladder is fitted at their forward part and the vertical ladder at their aft part. The close to 11,7 m of length Australian ladders were fitted in a duct with only two openings, one at the entrance of the hatch and one at their end, approximately 5,3 m from holds bottom.

Marine accident synopsis

  • Following IONIC berthing, at approximately 00:30 the draught surveyor boarded her and the draught survey commenced. At about 020:0 cargo holds No 1 & 3 were opened for ventilation and preparations for discharging were undergoing.
  • At approximately 02:03 port facility΄s 4 stevedores came on board and were directed to the Tally Room, located at the accommodation΄s main deck, in order to wait for the unloading to be commenced. However, the Foreman Terminal in charge of the stevedores΄s team did not board IONIC.
  • At approximately 0525, after the plastic covers protecting the cargo in the cargo hold no 3 were removed by two stevedores with the assistance of a terminal crane hoisting them, the discharging operation from said hold began.
  • As estimated by the IONIC crew, at around 05:28, two stevedores entered no 1 cargo hold aft access through the Australian ladder without any prior permission granted by IONIC Officers or crew. As the cargo stowage of the 12,562.79 MT of Zinc concentrate” was covering the duct΄s lower opening at no 1 cargo hold, the duct space where the Australian ladder was fitted was oxygen deficient.
  • The AB on the deck watch that was accidentally passing nearby the entrance of no 1 cargo hold aft entrance, saw one of the stevedores lying on the deck having difficulties in breathing and reported the situation to the Officer on deck watch through his portable VHF and in parallel, he shouted: Emergency, emergency. It is presumed that seconds after the AB observed the second stevedore lying on the landing platform of the vertical ladder leading to the Australian ladder.
  • Despite the fact that assistance had already been called, the AB decided to enter the enclosed duct space in order to recover the unconscious stevedore. Unlikely he also collapsed due to the oxygen-depleted atmosphere in the landing platform of a vertical ladder.
  • Moments after the 2nd Officer on the deck watch came on the scene and reported the emergency situation to the Chief Officer that rushed to the “scene”. He immediately ordered the 2nd Officer to alert the crew and prepare the emergency response team for
    entering the enclosed space.
  • The 2nd Officer returned to the accommodation right away and reported the casualty by phone to the Master that was in the Ship΄s Office. The Master informed the ship΄s agent by phone and requested immediate shore assistance and went immediately on the spot.
  • The rescue team from enclosed spaces consisting of the Bosun and an AB, equipped with PPE and breathing apparatus devices proceeded on the scene and at approximately 0540 under Master΄s instructions entered no 1 cargo hold aft access.
  • At about 05:50, the rescue team managed to take out the unconscious stevedore. Three minutes later the rescue team reentered the enclosed space however it was no possible recover the AB due to the fact that his body had tumbled down the narrow stairs of the Australian ladder during the recovery of the stevedore.
  • At approximately 06:15 shore medical assistance came on board and administered first aid to the stevedores however the one that was recovered fro the cargo hold duct space declared deceased. The other stevedore was taken to hospital and was fully recovered. At 06:35 Fire Brigade, rescuers came on board and finally recovered the casualty AB.
  • China Maritime Safety Administration held a preliminary investigation on the marine casualty. IONIC continued with the discharging operation in the afternoon hours. At approximately 23:30 on 15 August 2015, IONIC departed from Fangcheng Port and continued with her trading operations

Investigation outcomes

The safety Investigation and analysis have highlighted contributing and underlined factors that resulted in the examined marine casualty. Such factors are quoted in random order:

  • BLU CODE and BLU Manual provisions and guidelines in relation to Ship and Terminal exchange of information were not followed in full;
  • Communication difficulties in the English language;
  • Shore personnel lack of supervision;
  • Lack of implementing safety measures for enclosed spaces entry; and others as will be listed in the final safety investigation report.

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Source: HBMCI


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