The incident

An Able Seaman (AB) jumped from the ship to the quayside to receive the mooring ropes. In his attempt, he slipped over the bulwark and fell over the side into the sea from a height of 1.75m. At that time, the gap between the vessel and the quay was 0.5-0.6m.

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While falling, he grabbed the vessel fender with his hands, keeping himself out of the water. The vessel Master had a direct line of sight to the incident and he immediately stopped the engines. He then manoeuvred the stern away from the quayside using the bow thruster, preventing the AB from being crushed between the vessel and quayside as well as from being drawn into the propeller.

The AB was helped back onto deck by a colleague and after a check-up it was confirmed that he was unharmed.

Probable cause

Three factors contributed to this near miss:

  • Procedures not followed: By jumping from the vessel to the quay, the crewman violated written procedures. All other persons present knew that this practice was not allowed, and were aware of the possible consequences, but no one stopped him;
  • Shortcuts: The vessel Master did not ask the Port Authority for help because of alleged issues experienced in past, where this assistance was either not provided or was provided with a significant time delays. Thus, a shortcut was taken by the vessel crew, which led to the incident;
  • Routine acceptance of risk/complacency: The unsafe practice of jumping from the vessel to the quayside had developed over time without being confronted or stopped by management.

Lessons learned

This near miss incident could have been avoided if assistance was requested by the vessel Master from onshore.

It could have also led to fatality, and reminds that shortcuts and deviations from established procedures and safe working practices are not acceptable.