MARS 188 - June 2008


MARS 200841

Fatality in fuel tank

A crew member lost his life while working in a fuel oil tank at a time when the ship was undergoing repairs in dry dock. 

The tank had been prepared for entry on the previous day and was tested and passed by the chief officer and shipyard chemist prior to entry for inspection. An appropriate enclosed space entry permit was issued.

After the inspection of the tank had been completed by the shipyard and company representatives, the ship’s bosun was instructed to secure the tank lid. The chief officer also instructed him to renew the gaskets of the manhole cover.

In order to facilitate proper tightening of the tank lid with the renewed gasket, the bosun cleaned the contact surfaces of the manhole and lid. As a result, some debris had collected on the upper access ladder platform located immediately underneath the manhole, approximately two metres below the deck.

The bosun sent an ordinary seaman (OS) to collect the debris; he descended to the platform and requested for a brush and dustpan to be lowered in order to sweep the platform clean. The enclosed space was safe for entry, having been visited only 30 minutes earlier by the inspection team.

While an able seaman (AB) was sent to fetch the cleaning gear, the bosun observed that the OS inside the tank appeared to be kneeling, but assumed that this pose was to facilitate better cleaning of the platform. A few minutes later, the bosun called out to the OS and lowered the cleaning gear on a rope.

The OS rose from the kneeling position, with his hands extended above his head in order to collect the equipment being lowered. At this point he either suffered a black out or just lost balance and fell backwards 12 m down to the tank bottom from the platform. The platform was only provided with guard rails on two of its sides, and the unprotected side happened to be the one behind the OS.

An emergency alarm was immediately raised and the chief officer, bosun and the AB entered the tank wearing breathing apparatus. At the same time, the master informed the emergency services via the yard foreman.

The shipyard rescue team arrived promptly and joined the ship’s team in the tank. The OS was brought on to the deck, but regrettably was pronounced dead by the doctor.


Staff Author