Sling Snap Cargo Fall Results in Serious Back Injuries


Cargo vessel operations can be tricky and should be done with utmost care. As a minor slip can cause severe healthcare problems as we see in this situation where faulty cargo operations in the Caribbean port lead to severe back injuries of a chief officer. The Swedish Club presented a detailed report on this and here’s an excerpt from that report.

The Incident

  1. The general cargo vessel was about to discharge packaged sawn timber in a small Caribbean port. Before discharging commenced the master told the crew the importance of slinging each timber package at equal distances to maintain its centre of gravity.
  2. Discharge started in the evening. This chief officer had turned on the cargo floodlights and all crew members were wearing proper PPE such as boiler suits, high visibility vests, safety shoes and hard hats. The 3rd officer and an AB were in cargo hold 1. The chief officer and an AB were in cargo hold 2.
  3. The vessel’s cargo cranes were operated by the bosun and an AB. On the quay were three stevedores. The crew connected the slings to the cargo in the cargo holds.
  4. Just before midnight, there were some issues with the slings in hold 1 so the 3rd officer called the bosun on the VHF and told him that the slings needed to be repositioned.
  5. For some reason, the 3rd officer climbed onto the timber package and grabbed one of the slack slings. He told the bosun on the radio to take up the slack and start hoisting slowly.
  6. The AB held the slings on the inboard side to prevent the timber from moving out of position.
  7. As the slings tensioned and the timber was hoisted, one of the slings snapped and caused the entire timber package to start swinging.
  8. The package was about 4m above the tanktop and the 3rd officer lost his balance and fell straight down onto it.
  9. The AB in hold 1 called the bosun and master on the radio. The cargo operation was immediately stopped. The chief officer climbed quickly into the cargo hold.

The Injuries Incurred

The 3rd officer was lying on his back with his right leg bent at an unnatural angle, he was semi-conscious. The master arranged for an ambulance while the chief officer gave first aid. The 3rd officer complained about severe pain in his back and leg. He also had difficulty breathing. A stretcher was arranged by the crew and the 3rd officer was lifted onto the quay by the crane. It took about 30 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. At the hospital, the 3rd officer was found to have a broken leg and serious back injuries. He was not able to continue working at sea.


  • Climbing on the cargo is a strict “no” and even if it is done, it should be done following strict procedures and safety checks
  • The slings might be overloaded beyond capacity.
  • The slings condition might not be checked before operation
  • No one stopped the officer from climbing onto the cargo.
  • Safety practices weren’t followed diligently.
  • Tool Box meeting before cargo operation wasn’t held


  • Follow the safety procedures diligently.
  • Intervene when you see another crew member following an unsafe practice.
  • Don’t climb up the cargo while in operation.
  • Keep the safety procedures in mind before climbing up a cargo during operations
  • Hold a tool box meeting before cargo operations.
  • Check the condition of slings and other things before starting operation
  • Prevent overloading the slings.

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Source: The Swedish Club



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