Unfamiliar Use of Manoverboard Recovery Equipment Fatality


In the first case of UK MAIB’s recently released Safety Digest, it is described an incident where a chief engineer suffered a cardiac arrest shortly after falling into freezing water.


A tug was employed for emergency standby duties at an oil terminal. The environmental conditions were severe with very rough seas and sea  temperature was 4ºC. Due to the extreme weather, the port control officer ordered the tug to abandon the standby duties to meet and assist a passenger ferry in its berthing.

The master requested the chief engineer to let go the mooring lines from the quay. The chief engineer left the tug through its forward bulwark access gate and stepped on to the quay’s steps. When he was ready to let go the forward line, the master moved the tug forward to slacken the line. Having let go the final line, the chief engineer approached the vessel to re-board. As the tug had been moved ahead from its original position, the quay’s steps were no longer aligned with the tug’s access gate.

Seeing this, the chief engineer decided to step onto the fender to board his vessel. Unfortunately, in doing so he lost his footing and fell into the water through the gap between the fender and the quay. The chief engineer was wearing a lifejacket. The crew quickly attempted to throw him a lifebuoy with a lanyard and then hauled him towards the mid-ships access door. The chief engineer was too weakened to climb back on board using the recessed ladder in the hull.

The crew then attempted to use the vessel’s manoverboard recovery device. Shortly afterwards, the chief engineer appeared to lose consciousness and slipped out of the recovery device. A rescue boat arrived within 22 minutes of the accident and chief engineer pronounced to be dead due to cardiac arrest.


During investigation it was found that

  1. It had become a standard practice to use the quay’s fenders to step on and of tugs.
  2. Crew members should not be familiar with the use of manoverboard recovery equipment.

Lesson learnt

  1. Access to and from an un-moored vessel is a very dangerous activity, and should be avoided. When berthing or unberthing, shore-based linesmen should be employed.
  2. Even if you are strong and healthy, if you fall into water that is below 14ºC you will very soon be unable to help yourself.
  3. All crew members should be familiar with the use of manoverboard recovery equipment to recover an unresponsive casualty.
  4. There is no substitute for regular and realistic drills using a manoverboard mannequin.

Did you subscribe to our daily newsletter

It’s Free! Click here to subscribe!

Source: UK MAIB


  1. Why on earth did the Chief Engineer was asked to let go the lines in the first place? Clearly it is not his job. So it is failure of SMS.
    Further it is a SOLAS requirement that these vessel havea procedure for rescue of personnel from water. Just having a procedure itself isn’t good enough if the crew isn’t trained sing the procedure. Another failure of the SMS.

Comments are closed.