1) Outline

While underway to China the forward bilge alarm sounded on our vessel, prompting a need to send an investigation team forward in Force 6 weather. A risk assessment was hastily carried out by Master involving the Chief Engineer, Chief Officer, Bosun and the pumpman. After reducing speed and observing the wave pattern for almost 10 minutes, the team consisting of Bosun and Pumpman, led by Chief Officer went forward. It was noted that about 10 ltrs of water was in the bilge well of the forepeak store which was causing intermittent alarms. . The water ingress was from water tight door which was not fully secured prior departure. The bilge well was emptied and the team started to return from forward when a freak wave hit them from behind causing all three to lose balance and fall on the catwalk. A second and third wave followed in quick succession resulting in all three being thrashed on the catwalk. All three crew members limped back to safety inside the accommodation and were found with multiple injuries. The Chief Officer suffered bruises, haematoma (blood clot) and pain in leg. The Bosun suffered pain in the hip area whereas the Pumpman complained of pain in the back. All three were given first aid and noted to be in stable condition. They were sent for further medical check-up ashore two days later. The Chief Officer and Pumpman were given a further 3 weeks rest. The Bosun had fractures on shoulder blade and hip and underwent surgery. All three were repatriated home for further physiotherapy and rest.

2) Cause of the incident

  • The risk assessment did not take into account the effect of changes in wave length and frequency, after the vessel’s speed reduction had stabilised. The company procedure required 10 minutes of observing the deck after changes are made to speed / course before sending anyone on deck.

  • The vessel was not put on hand steering or turned, to put the seas, on aft quarter, as indicated in company procedures.

  • The watch-keeper on Bridge did not alert the men on deck, who were returning and had their back to the wave hitting the deck.

  • Inadequate heavy weather preparation. The water-tight door had not been adequately secured or cross-checked prior departure.

3) Lessons Learnt

  • Do not send anyone on deck in rough weather unless absolutely necessary. If unavoidable do a proper risk assessment assuming a worst case scenario. Observe the seas on deck for at least 20 minutes after any changes are made to course and speed, allowing vessel to settle down in its new situation. Our company procedures have been revised to allow for this additional time.

  • Ensure crew are well protected and in constant communication with dedicated watch-keeper on Bridge to alert if situation changes on deck.

  • Prepare vessel for departure diligently expecting bad weather and cross-check actions to be sure.

posted 02 May '17, 03:40

May 2, 2017, 3:40 a.m.
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