Seafarer Death After Falling in Frozen Water – Investigation Report

CARISMA had been on a voyage from Slite to Roenne to take a cargo of sand. The ship arrived at Roenne on 25 January 2011 at 2200. As the loading operation was planned to commence the next morning, it was decided not to rig the gangway until visitors were expected. Half an hour after arrival, a part of the crew left the ship to go ashore. Instead of rigging the gang-way they used a pilot ladder that they rigged on the ship side. Shortly after having arrived at the town centre, one of the crew members felt tired and returned to the ship. At 0020 on 26 of January 2012, the seaman was observed struggling in the water between the ship and the quay. Within ten minutes the seaman was safe, but he died later that night at the hospital in Roenne.

2012.12.03 - Seafarer Dies After Falling in Frozen Water Figure 1

The Accident took place between 0015 and 0020, the chief officer went on deck to check the discharge of ballast water. When he came on deck, he heard an unfamiliar sound coming from the water. Immediately he got hold of a torchlight and got a glimpse of the seaman who was struggling in the water between the quay and the ship’s side approximately 1.5 metres from the pilot ladder. The chief officer immediately alarmed the master, who hurried to the deck where he threw a lifebuoy into the water where the seaman had been seen. At the same time he alarmed the Danish Police by telephone on the Danish emergency.

The chief officer untied the pilot ladder and lowered it as much as possible in an attempt to locate and get hold of the seaman who was no longer visible. The chief officer could not locate the sea-man and because the lowest step of the ladder was too far above the water surface to get hold of anything, the chief officer climbed back on deck. From a locker placed nearby he donned a survival suit.

As soon as the police arrived, the chief officer saw a shadow beneath the surface under one of the fenders. He therefore stepped onto the pilot ladder and jumped into the water. After a short search, he located the seaman who was well under water. The seaman was stuck under one of the fenders. The chief officer managed to get hold of the seaman and tie a rope around him and by help of the police the seaman was dragged out of the water and onto the quay.

2012.12.03 - Seafarer Dies After Falling in Frozen Water Figure 2

The pilot ladder rigged at the ship’s side

At that time an ambulance had arrived and the ambulance men immediately started resuscitation, after which the seaman was placed in the ambulance and taken to hospital where he later died. At the hospital a blood sample was taken. An analysis showed a blood alcohol consentration of at least 2,85 ‰. According to Company procedures, outside working hours a blood alcohol concentration of only 0.2 ‰ was allowed.

Approximately 10 minutes passed from the first observation of the seaman in the water until he was hauled out of the water.

According to the Company’s ISM manual, the deceased seaman was responsible for rigging the gangway after arrival. The normal procedure was to rig the gangway at arrival. Under some special circumstances where proper and safe rigging of the gangway was impossible a pilot ladder had been used after the master had assessed it safe and given his permission. When the use of gangway was impossible the pilot ladder was always kept in proper height and the vessel close to quay.

2012.12.03 - Seafarer Dies After Falling in Frozen Water Figure 3

The gangway

The DMA investigation report makes the following conclusions regarding the accident

  • Half an hour after arrival, the crew members rigged the pilot ladder and left the ship. At that time the discharge of ballast had just begun. When the seaman returned to the ship, the steps of the pilot ladder had been raised one meter due to discharge of ballast. For this reason and because the distance between the quay side and the ship’s side was 80 centimetres, it became considerably more difficult to step onto the pilot ladder.
  • On the day of the accident, the temperature was below the freezing point. This circumstance made the quay slippery as it was covered with patches of ice. This may have caused the seaman to slip and fall into the water while attempting to use the pilot ladder to embark the ship.
  • Arriving at the ship, the seaman had a blood alcohol concentration of at least 2.85 ‰. In general, such a concentration causes severe motor impairment.
  • The use of the pilot ladder instead of the gangway had over time resulted in a non-realized increase of risks; risks such as slippery quay surfaces, variable distances between the quay and ship’s side, and the changed position of the pilot ladder due to changes in the displacement.

Source: DMA

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