In its latest Mars Report, The Nautical Institute discusses a fatal fall on board a ship while unloading cargo that was investigated by Dutch Safety Board in 2022. The organisation once again stresses the importance of always using fall protection when working at height.

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

A vessel at anchor was to unload cargo using its own grabs. The grabs were secured on pedestals that protruded 2.5 metres above the deck. Given the height of each grab, the top of the grab to which the crane hook had to be attached was more than six and a half metres above the deck.

The rigging was carried out on all four ship cranes, but other jobs still needed attending to. One deck crew climbed onto the grab via the integrated steps on the grab to release a lashing. The crane operator moved the hook towards the grab. Two ABs used a messenger line to guide the crane hook while the AB on the grab was still working to release the lashing.

The lifting block on the crane swung and hit the crew member working at the lashing. The victim fell backwards to the deck below, landing on his head. None of the crew members involved were wearing the PPE required, such as a helmet, or using fall protection even though this equipment was available on board.

The Master was informed of the accident and the victim was attended to. He was soon transported to a shore hospital, but his condition worsened en route. On arrival at the hospital he was confirmed deceased. During the investigation, it was not possible to determine with certainty why the lifting block suddenly swung.

Also read: Fatal fall overboard to quay

Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • Walk the talk? Wearing correct PPE was apparently discussed during the earlier toolbox meeting, including the use of fall protection when working at height. However, during the work, no crew members wore proper PPE or used fall protection, nor did the duty officer object to this practice.
  • Management’s commitment to safety and the ensuing trust relationship that is created with crewmembers are key elements of a robust safety culture. Senior vessel leaders must walk the talk.

Also read: Routine task ends with fall

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202408, that are part of Report Number 376. A selection of the Mars Reports are also published in the SWZ|Maritime magazine. The Nautical Institute compiles these reports to help prevent maritime accidents. That is why they are also published (in full) 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: Fatal fall from stern mounted lifeboat davit