Securing Cargo on Deck in Poor Weather Results in Fatality on Board


Skandi Pacific’s aft deck securing chain arrangement

The incident:

In the early hours of 14 July 2015, the offshore support vessel (OSV) Skandi Pacific was loading cargo containers from the semi-submersible oil rig Atwood Osprey at its offshore location, about 90 miles north-west off Dampier. Shortly after 0505, cargo transfer was stopped due to worsening weather conditions. Skandi Pacific was moved 30 m away from the rig with the rough seas still on its port quarter. Two crewmembers then began securing cargo on the vessel’s aft deck.

While securing the cargo, the crewmembers slackened the securing chain they had used to secure the containers on the starboard side to better secure the entire stow. At about 0523, two large waves came over Skandi Pacific’s open stern, shifting the unsecured containers forward. One of the crewmembers was trapped between the moving containers, chains and a skip and suffered fatal crush injuries.


The CCTV frame at 0519

The ATSB investigation found that the risks associated with securing the cargo in the prevailing weather conditions on 14 July had not been adequately assessed. The fatally injured man was standing in a dangerous location near the unsecured cargo containers when they shifted.

The investigation identified that Skandi Pacific’s safety management system (SMS) procedures for working/securing cargo on deck in poor weather were inadequate with no clearly defined weather limits. Further, there were no clearly defined limits for excessive water on deck that necessitated stopping operations, leaving individuals to make difficult, and necessarily subjective, decisions about whether or not to stop work.

The ATSB also found that Skandi Pacific’s managers had not adequately assessed the inherent high risks associated with seas coming over the vessel’s open stern when work, including cargo handling operations, was being undertaken on its aft deck.

Action Taken:

Proactive safety action by Skandi Pacific’s managers to avoid a similar accident includes improved cargo handling practices across its OSV fleet. Amongst these measures are updated procedures for working in adverse weather and cargo loading, including specific weather condition limits. In addition, existing risk assessments for offloading deck cargo at installations have been updated to include a section on risks associated with securing cargo.

The safety action taken by the vessel’s managers has adequately addressed the safety issues related to cargo handling/securing in adverse weather. The action taken has partially addressed the safety issue with regard to open stern vessels.

Therefore, the ATSB has issued a safety recommendation to the vessel’s managers to undertake further work which addresses the risks associated with the use of vessels with open sterns. The ATSB has also issued a safety advisory notice to shipmasters, owners, and operators of OSV’s to highlight the risks posed by the open stern vessels to the industry more broadly.

Line of sight of Skandi Pacific’s aft deck from the Bridge

Safety message:

Offshore support vessel operations are inherently high risk because they often occur in exposed locations in a particularly dynamic environment. Multiple factors, including the weather conditions, schedule requirements, time of day, limited crew numbers, restrictions due to vessel design and systems, amongst others, add complexity to operations. Therefore, risk assessments are critical, with the weather and its impact on factors, such an open stern is invariably a vital consideration.

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Source: ATSB