Fatal Accident During Vessel Shifting Operation: Key Lessons Learned

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A fatal accident on board a Hong Kong registered bulk carrier at the port of Pascagoula, USA has provided important lessons for future vessel operations. The incident occurred during a shifting operation, when the vessel was required to move forward or backward to load cargoes into different holds. The master of the vessel instructed the 2/O to heave the slack aft spring line, not realizing that it was entangled by the mooring platform fender. The line suddenly escaped and struck the 2/O, resulting in his death.

An investigation into the incident revealed several contributing factors. The crew failed to follow safety requirements and recommendations outlined in the “Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seafarers”, including remaining in a safe position when mooring lines are under strain and identifying dangerous areas using a bird’s eye view of the mooring deck. They also failed to hold a toolbox meeting before the operation and lacked a safe working culture of good communication and clear leadership. Additionally, the 2/O lacked safety awareness of the risk of snap-back zones of mooring lines.

To prevent similar accidents in the future, the ship management company, as well as all masters, officers, and crew members, should strictly adhere to the requirements of the Code. This includes remaining in safe positions, conducting toolbox meetings, carrying out effective risk assessments, enhancing safety awareness, promoting a safe working culture, and providing effective onboard training for safe mooring and unmooring operations. These measures will help to ensure the safety of vessel operations and prevent tragic accidents like the one that occurred in Pascagoula.

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