At 1438 (UTC+1) on 27 October 2011, an able seaman (AB) on board the UK registered cargo vessel Scot Pioneer fell into a void space at the forward end of the ship’s cargo hold. The vessel was loading cargo at Belview Port. Although paramedics treated the AB at the scene, he died from his injuries a short while later.
The AB fell when attempting to leave the cargo hold via a wooden footbridge leading from an upper opening in the hold’s forward portable bulkhead. The footbridge was an ad-hoc arrangement utilizing a conveniently located ventilation opening in the forward portable bulkhead and was infrequently used, although it allowed access to the cargo hold when a part-cargo was carried. The crew reacted swiftly and positively after the fall, but it would have been beneficial for them to have had contact details of local emergency services available.
The MAIB investigation found that:
- The opening in the portable bulkhead was designed to provide ventilation to the hold, not a means of access.
- The footbridge was an ad-hoc arrangement and was not fitted with any means to prevent a person from falling.
- Several of the crew involved in the cargo operations recognized the risks of using the footbridge but did not raise their concerns on board
Following the accident, Scot Pioneer’s managers:
- removed the forward portable bulkhead,
- reviewed the access arrangements to the cargo hold,
- issued a fleet safety circular highlighting the need to provide safe means of access.
- In addition, the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has strongly advised the owners and operators of Scot Pioneer’s nine sister vessels to ensure that crews do not use the upper openings in the portable forward bulkhead to access the hold unless a proper risk assessment has been conducted and a safe means of access, which guards against a fall from height, has been provided.