Going forward with water on deck is always dangerous. In a new Nautical Institute Mars Report, a crew member was killed despite wearing the right PPE.

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. This is one of these reports.

A loaded chemical/oil products tanker was underway in heavy weather. The vessel was facing 6-metre head seas and water was frequently shipping over the bow and forecastle. Speed was reduced to about 6 knots and crew were not allowed on deck.

The water ingress alarm for the bosun’s store sounded in the engine control room, and the duty engineer immediately notified the officer of the watch (OOW) on the bridge. It was suspected that the forecastle deck hatch (1.4m X 1m) to the bosun’s store had been compromised, allowing water to enter the compartment.

The master considered that uncontrolled flooding of the bosun’s store could have an adverse effect on the ship’s trim and stability. He decided that immediate action must be taken to investigate the water ingress and reduce the flooding. The master did not seek assistance from the company with calculating the effect on the ship’s stability of the flooded bosun’s store, nor was the company notified of the water ingress.

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The master attempted to turn the ship 180 degrees to decrease the water being shipped before the crew went forward, but the vessel rolled so much that this was not possible. Six crew then went on deck and made their way to the forecastle. They were wearing the required PPE, including lifejackets and safety harnesses attached to lifelines.

They found that the forward edge of the deck hatch and coaming had been slightly deformed inward. This created a small gap between the hatch cover gasket and the hatch coaming which was allowing water to enter the bosun’s store with each successive wave that broke over the bow.

It was decided that the entire hatch would be covered to slow the water ingress. The crew began to bind rubber and plastic over the damaged hatch. Suddenly, a large wave broke over the bow and the crew members working forward were knocked off their feet and swept across the deck. All the crew members’ lifelines were still attached at the time.

The master raised the alarm and ordered additional crew members to don PPE for working on deck. The rescue party went forward with first aid supplies and a stretcher. Five crew were found injured while one was uninjured. All five injured crew members were taken to the ship’s hospital.

All five victims had serious injuries; one victim had suffered a significant injury to his forehead and was in critical condition. Despite best efforts, the master pronounced the victim deceased later that day.

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Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • Even with lifelines secured and PPE, going forward with water on deck can be a very dangerous endeavour.
  • When in doubt, contact the company to receive guidance. In this case, a stability calculation may have shown that even with a flooded bosun’s store the vessel would have been safe and sending crew forward an unnecessary risk.

Also read: Wear a lifeline when working on deck in heavy weather

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202428, that are part of Report Number 379. 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.

Photo (for illustrative purposes, not related to the incident) by NASA/SABOR/Chris Armanetti, University of Rhode Island/Flickr.

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