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Cargo crane fatality prompts safety recommendations from MAIB

27 November 2020

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has made safety recommendations following a fatal crushing accident aboard the UK-registered cargo vessel Karina C.

During the incident, which took place in May 2019, a second officer was killed while completing cargo operations prior to sailing from Seville. The officer climbed into a small gap between a stack of cargo hold hatch covers and the gantry crane used to move them, probably to cross the vessel. The crane operator did not see this and then accidentally crushed the seafarer by closing the gap.

The MAIB investigation established that safety practices aboard the vessel were not being followed and that the drug and alcohol policy of the operator, Carisbrooke Shipping Ltd, was not effectively enforced. The victim is known to have consumed excess alcohol prior to the accident.

In addition, the incident was not reported for several months because the operator was slow to follow up on the accident, initially taking statements that the officer might have had a heart attack and then suffered a fall at face value. The operator also failed to quickly follow up on another crushing incident involving a crane that took place two months earlier. This delayed any improvement to safety standards.

MAIB advised Carisbrooke Shipping Ltd to improve the safety culture on its vessel by ensuring that all crew understand and adhere to safe systems of work, and to look at ways of improving gantry crane warning systems.

The company has taken several steps, such as updating its gantry crane operating procedures, amending its alcohol policy and updating procedures to ensure all serious incidents are fully investigated. It has also fitted additional emergency stops to all its gantry cranes.

Captain Andrew Moll, chief inspector of marine accidents, said: 'Ship's decks are dangerous places and this accident could have been avoided if personnel operating Karina C's deck that day had adhered to established safe working practices. The limited space available and ambient noise on deck mean that travelling gantry cranes, common on many operators' vessels, can be particularly hazardous.

'Recently they have been involved in a number of fatal accidents and the MAIB is currently investigating another tragic death in similar circumstances. The accident on Karina C is a further case where excess alcohol consumption almost certainly contributed to the death of a seafarer.'