Lessons Learnt: Crew injured on deck in heavy weather


Vessel Type: Bulk Carrier

Incident description

A fully loaded bulk carrier was proceeding at full sea speed on a south westerly course in the Mediterranean Sea in conditions of heavy weather. The bosun and a cadet were instructed to wash down the vessel's main deck and hatch covers to remove grain cargo dust remaining from the previous loading operations. At this time, the wind was blowing from a south easterly direction at about 30 knots, equivalent to force 7 on the Beaufort wind scale. While the seamen were working on the port side, a large wave was shipped on deck, sweeping them heavily against the adjacent cargo hold hatch coamings. Both seamen sustained multiple injuries requiring the vessel to deviate from the planned route to land them ashore for urgent medical treatment.


In this incident the seamen could easily have lost their lives due to serious injury or by being swept overboard. The probability of seas being shipped on deck was not properly assessed and the performance of such a low priority task in heavy weather should never have been permitted by the vessel's master.

Although the seamen were using safety equipment including lifejackets, safety helmets and harnesses, a proper risk assessment would have ruled out this work being carried out in the first place.

Lessons Learnt

  • No seafarers should be permitted on deck in adverse weather unless considered necessary for the safety of the ship, crew or the safety of life at sea
  • Where possible, work on deck should be delayed until conditions have improved or deferred until the next port of call
  • If work on deck in adverse weather is considered absolutely necessary, a full risk assessment and permit to work should be completed
  • Seafarers required to go on deck in adverse weather should wear a lifejacket suitable for working in, a safety harness which can be attached to deck lifelines and full personal protective equipment
  • The bridge watch should also be informed in advance with the deck party and bridge maintaining visual and radio contact.
  • Consideration should be given to altering course and/or speed to alleviate the vessel's motion and reduce the probability of seas being shipped on deck

The UK Club's Loss Prevention team combines practical solutions that address Members' needs and claims experience with research into the wider issues that impact directly on P&I insurance and the Club's exposure to claims. Every year, the UK P&I Club deals with thousands of claims using the expertise and experience of its professional claims handlers, ex-seafarers and lawyers. With five decades of research into loss prevention issues the Club has developed a formidable body of technical material on maritime risks. Each month the Loss Prevention team aim to share some of the Club's claims experience, by looking at real case examples and identifying lessons learnt to help Members avoid similar incidents - you can find past lessons learnt here: https://www.ukpandi.com/loss-prevention/training-advice/lessons-learnt/

Staff Author