An Antigua & Barbuda registered vessel experienced a fatal accident on board during bulkhead shifting by hatch gantry crane in the port of Rotterdam. To release the securing pins of the bulkhead, a person’s basket/cage attached to the hatch gantry with an electric chain hoist with a single point fix, was used. The swivel hook of the electric chain hoist broke at the connection point, letting the person basket fall about 5 m to the bottom of the hatch causing the death of the suspended crew member.
After the able seaman had fallen into the cargo hold, the pilot, who was still on board, immediately called an ambulance. All efforts by the crew prior to the arrival remained without effect, and the doctor was only able to pronounce the sailor’s death.
The hatch gantry and the attachable hoists (1 on each side) are not considered as lifting appliance as they are part of the hatch cover (moving) system and not to lift cargo or any other gear. This may mean that during the mandatory survey of lifting appliances through the classification society, the equipment in question would not be included and thus could cause a lack of maintenance supervision and control. The requirements given are the manufacturer’s maintenance requirements and the ILO work safety regulations. These give clear guidance on the one hand, how to maintain the chain hoists, and on the other what is expected in the sense of overall safety during usage of such gear.
It is clear from the manual provided by the chain hoist manufacturer that it is not to be used for the lifting of persons, except, if some sort of safety device is installed that prevents the person basket from falling (fall arrest or preventer).
The aim of the investigation conducted is to raise awareness of the shipping community in regard to the safety issues of electrical tackles used for the lifting of persons as intended by the hatch gantry manufacturer without a fall preventer or arrest and the importance of maintenance and testing of this equipment even though it is often not part of the official lifting appliances but falls under ILO convention 152, work safety.
If the electrical tackles manufacturer’s instruction/certification would have been followed by the hatch gantry manufacturer and the vessels managing company, no persons would have been lowered and lifted without a fall arrest/preventer. This very important factor was either ignored or not noticed as full Dutch certification was achieved and the system sold to many clients.
Personal safety is a personal responsibility even if the equipment has been certified and installed during the build phase of a vessel. The competent person who checks the gear prior to its use should be trained in safety awareness and the requirements as per definition in ILO 152. This includes supervision of storage and maintenance and especially the diligent check before setting up and commencing operation. Last but just as important, the persons involved in the direct operation of the equipment, in this case the person basket and attached electrical tackle hanging from the hatch gantry on one single point, must also assess the involved risks and maybe even question the given setup.
ADOMS IID recommends that the testing and certifying authorities categorize the hatch gantry system, including the electrical tackle and person basket, as a lifting appliance when lifting by gantry or other crane takes place in order to assure the correct testing and maintenance including documentation or certification thereof.