People on board ships should be aware of the fact that gantry crane operators do not have a clear view of the entire work area. The Nautical Institute issues this warning in its latest Mars Report, which describes a fatality on board a cargo vessel.

The Nautical Institute gathers reports of maritime accidents and near-misses. It then publishes these so-called Mars Reports (anonymously) to prevent other accidents from happening. A summary of this incident:

A small cargo vessel with eight crew on board had berthed in port and was carrying out deck maintenance. The vessel, a single hatch ship, had one hold equipped with ten pontoon hatch covers that were moved using a hydraulic gantry crane running on rails. The gantry crane operator’s platform was located on top of the gantry at the starboard side.

The planned maintenance for the day was to change the rubber gaskets for hatch cover number 8. To accomplish this, hatch cover 8 was lifted and placed onto hatches covers 9 and 10. To keep the hatch cover stable in its temporary position and take some of the load, wooden stanchions were improvised under part of the hatch.

Two deck crew were to place the stanchions beneath the hatch cover before changing the gasket. The gantry crane operator could not see the two crew beneath the hatch cover and relied on VHF radio contact for communication.

Also read: Nautical Institute warns of gantry crane dangers after stevedore fatality

The two crew selected what they considered suitable wooden stanchions, each about 1.5 metres long and about 150 mm on each side. As hatch cover 8 was lowered, they placed the stanchions vertically, one at each side of the cover. In order to accomplish this, the crew had to remain under the hatch cover throughout the operation.

As the weight of the hatch cover was taken on the stanchions, the gantry crane hooks unexpectedly disconnected from the cover lifting lugs. The sudden increase in weight broke the wooden stanchions and derailed the gantry. The crew member on the port side was able to escape to safety in time, but the crew on the starboard side was crushed by the hatch cover.

Very quickly, rescue operations were undertaken, but the crew member was found deceased.

Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • Improvising work procedures increases risks.
  • Never place yourself under a load.
  • Gantry cranes are useful tools, but have intrinsic design details that increase risks, such as the crane operator not having a clear view of the entire work area.

Also read: ‘Crew needs to realise gantry crane operators are mostly driving blind’

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202211, that are part of Report Number 353. A selection of this Report was also published in SWZ|Maritime’s April 2022 issue. The Nautical Institute compiles these reports to help prevent maritime accidents. That is why they are also published on SWZ|Maritime’s website.

More reports are needed to keep the scheme interesting and informative. All reports are read only by the Mars coordinator and are treated in the strictest confidence. To submit a report, please use the Mars report form.

Also read: Moving gantry causes serious injury