The incident at a glance

When the engine room crew of a Hong Kong registered container carrier carried out routine cleaning of a sea chest strainer at sea, they lifted the heavy sea chest cover using a chain block with a non-conforming sling, and then shifted the cover aside using a second chain block.

Loosely dangling from the second chain block, the cover was rested on the engine room lower deck platform at a height of about 2 metres from the sea chest strainer.

Shortly afterwards, the wire forming an “eye” at one end of the sling slid out of the bulldog grip, resulting in the cover toppling over, hitting the fitter working under the platform to death.

Incident investigation: Key contributing factors

The engine room crew failed to carry out a full assessment of the risks
involved and the control measures required to lift a weighty strainer cover by making reference to the “Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seafarers” (the Code).

Also, the sling assembly, including the fitted bulldog grips, did not conform to the recommendations detailed in the Code, in the following ways:

  • the sling assembly used only one bulldog grip at “eye” end instead
    of a minimum of three;
  • the bulldog grip was tied in a wrong direction; and
  • the wire used for forming the sling was plastic coated and was not
    suitable for lifting operation.

Lessons learned

  • Ship crew have to ensure strict compliance with the company’s procedures, guidelines and the Code on maintaining lifting gears and performing lift operation; in particular the application of bulldog grips.
  • Senior officers should carry out a full assessment of the risks involved and the control measures required for lifting heavy objects.