On board a hundred meter long ro-ro carrier with a gross tonnage of around 6000 t, two seafarers were heavily injured while retightening the lashing of loaded pipes during heavy seas in the North Atlantic.
On passage, a vessel loaded with lashed down steel pipes started to roll and pitch due to the weather situation with Beaufort 8 winds from south east. While the master diverted the vessel to control ship’s movement, the Ukrainian chief officer worried about the stowage condition of the steel pipes and went to check the cargo in order to resecure the pipes once again. Afterwards he informed the German master that the cargo was safely lashed.
A short time later, strange noises coming from the cargo hold made the chief officer, bosun and most of the deck crew get up and check the cargo condition.
After one hour the master was informed about the accident by the 2nd mate. When entering the concerning hold on tweendeck, the chief officer and an OS were (found) caught between the pipes with their feet crushed. Luckily the seriously injured seamen were rescued by a SAR helicopter whose pilots risked their own safety to reach the vessel and transport the injured to a shore hospital.
Steel cargo, especially when able to start rolling, is one of the most dangerous commodities to be loaded and stowed. Everything possible was done in the port of loading to avoid/limit any potential risk including regular and frequent hold inspections during passage. These inspections were according the log book entries confirmed as routine performance.
Nevertheless, a risk assessment for entering into cargo holds was totally ignored. The weekly conducted safety training did not include lessons for the preparation of risk assessments prior conducting dangerous works. The master and the chief officer failed in their responsibility not to make a risk assessment from the beginning as well as not to make it retroactive when in stormy weather. The crew should have expressed their safety concerns immediately on scene.
The chief officer should not have entered the cargo hold without discussing his intentions with the master. There is no doubt that the master would have agreed to a solution after having jointly prepared an action plan, including a risk assessment, the strengthening of the bridge team with manoeuvers to mitigate the vessel’s movements or even a total vessel standstill to await a weather improvement.
Shipping companies should be aware when recruiting crews for their vessels that under specific circumstances cultural clashes can develop hindering effective communication.
The company’s SMS should be revised to expand safety training needs.
Lesson to learn
An early preparation of a risk assessment is necessary in an environment having risk and danger potential.
Inadequate communication among the vessel management appears to be the source of different perception and encourages safety ignorance.