Lessons Learnt: Hand injury during operation of hatch covers


Vessel Type: Bulk Carrier

Incident description

The vessel was discharging water sensitive cargo at night when it began to rain. Cargo discharge was stopped and the crew were instructed by the duty officer to close the cargo hold hatch covers. A short time later, the rain ceased and the stevedores requested the hatch covers be reopened to resume discharge operations. The duty officer was said to have checked that no persons were standing near the hatch coamings before operating the hydraulic controls located at the starboard side coaming. As the hatch covers were being opened, the officer heard a scream coming from the direction of the port side hatch coaming. He immediately stopped the operation of the hatch covers and ran to the port side where he found one of the duty A.B.'s bleeding profusely from his right hand. It was apparent that the A.B.'s hand had been resting on the hatch coaming trackway and was run over by a rolling hatch cover panel wheel. Two fingers were sheared off by the wheel and another damaged finger required surgical amputation in hospital.


The vessel was equipped with standard hydraulically operated steel folding hatch covers fitted with wheels on the lead panels which travel along coaming trackways during opening and closing. The officer operating the hatch covers was unaware of the presence of the A.B. at the port side coaming, who would not have been within sight from the position of the control box. The Club has dealt with a number of similar accidents in recent years, usually attributable to complacency and failure to observe safe operating procedures. In this incident, the duty officer should have arranged for another member of the crew to keep station at the opposing hatch coaming to ensure that persons were kept clear.

Lessons Learnt

  • All deck officers and crew should be fully familiarised with the hatch cover safe operating procedures, including guidance contained in the manufacturers operating manual
  • Clear warnings of intended operation of hatch covers must be communicated to duty crew and shore workers on deck
  • Prior to opening or closing hatch covers, a thorough check should be made to ensure trackways are clear of obstructions and no persons are standing near or resting on the coamings during operation
  • Crew should be assigned to ensure the coamings remain clear during operation and means of immediately alerting the operator to stop clearly established

Captain David Nichol

Senior Loss Prevention Executive (Greece)