The Incident

A Hong Kong-registered chemical tanker was berthed at Kuala Tanjung, Indonesia. While at berth, the vessel's portable gangway was located between the main deck and the berth as access.

The chief officer along with a team of deck ratings used the vessel's crane to lift the gangway onboard the vessel to get ready for departure. The chief officer was trying to understand why the gangway got stuck with the vessel’s railing. At that time, the gangway suddenly moved and struck at him.

After the incident, the master conducted a visual body check for the chief officer and instructed him to take a rest.

In line with the vessels schedule the vessel departed the berth. Following, the chief officer visited a doctor when the vessel arrived at Pelintung, Indonesia on the next day, but he refused the doctor’s advice of hospitalization. The chief officer returned to the vessel and was declared dead on board later.

Probable causes

The investigation that followed presented some contributing factors to the accident; In essence:

  1. as the crane, limited by the arm span, could not reach the gangway’s centre point, the gangway was lifted under an asymmetrical centre line of hoisting thus causing the gangway being subjected to an inboard pulling force when lifted. As a result, the hooks at the end of the gangway were stuck with the vessel’s railing. When the hooks were suddenly freed from the railing, the gangway slid inboard in an uncontrolled manner. The uncontrolled gangway struck the chief officer who was standing at a spot within the danger zone of the gangway’s moving path;
  2. the deployment of four guard ropes failed to withhold the sudden inboard swing of the gangway. The risk assessment and the work plan prepared before the gangway lifting operation had not been done properly.

The Marine Government highlighted that

Seafarers should always consider accepting a doctor’s advice when attending medical treatments. The chief officer might save his own life if he decided to stay in the hospital as advised by the local doctor.

Lessons Learned

Masters, officers and crew should

Conduct a proper risk assessment for lifting heavy objects. During lifting operation, no person should stand in the danger zone. Lifting operation under an asymmetrical centre of the lift should be avoided as far as practicable;

Check the medical report of an injured person to confirm whether he/she is still fit for duties/sailing on board; And

Consider duly and accept the doctor’s advice when attending medical treatments.

Due to the frequency of accident relating to unsafe gangways, the USCG and the Shipowners Club have issued different papers providing recommendations on how to ensure the safe operation and safe use of gangways. See herebelow:

(a) Recommendations for safe use of gangways and ladders

(b) How to ensure safe operation of gangways