The incident

Adam Asnyk left Zuhai, China on 14 February 2018, after discharging a cargo of iron ore. The vessel was in ballast and bound for Xingang, China, where she was scheduled to load project cargo. Its estimated arrival date at Xingang was 19 February.

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On 15 February, the crew were tasked to clean cargo hold no. 4 in preparation for loading the next cargo. Before beginning the work, a safety and task briefing took place by the chief mate and the deck crew members.

Afterwards, the crew members were deployed. Initially, the cargo residue was removed, followed by the sweeping of the cargo hold. This work was performed over the day, with the crew taking their usual meal and coffee breaks. They then stopped for dinner and resumed to wash down the cargo hold.

At about 18.00, the bosun entered the cargo hold first. There, AB-1 and AB-2 connected a fire hose to a sea water hydrant on the main deck near cargo hold no. 5. It was reported that AB-2 then opened the valve of the fire hydrant while AB-1 stood over the entrance of cargo hold no. 4 and rinsed the cargo hold's access from above.

Before accessing the cargo hold access hatchway to descend, both crew members knew that they would need a longer hose. For this reason they took another fire hose and connected the two hoses. AB-2 again opened the valve and AB-1 went down the access ladder. At the first platform, AB-2 passed him the pressurised fire hose. Enough length was passed over to AB-1 to grasp it under his left arm.

From this position on the first platform, AB-1 washed the upper parts of the cargo hold's starboard side, including the side brackets and support. As this area was about to be completed, AB-2 descended the ladder and AB-1 stepped aside to enable him to descend to the next level so that the hose could be passed to him at tank top level.

As AB-1 completed the washing of the starboard side, he turned his attention to the port side and since the hose was too short to direct the water jet towards that area, he tugged at the hose with no result. He then tugged again and this time, more length of the hose came down.

The extra length of hose fell on AB-1 and since it was charged with water and with considerable weight, it managed to cause the safety railing to dislodge upwards from its position.

This caused the AB-1 to lose his balance and his hold on to the fire hose, falling through the open railing. As he fell, he grabbed hold of the hose again but slipped down until he came to the end of the hose. He then lost his grip and fell on to the tank top.

AB-1 landed on both of his legs and then fell on to his back. AB-2 immediately raised the alarm, while the bosun, deck fitter and another AB working in the cargo hold rushed to the injured person to assess his physical condition. The master then raised the alarm and both the chief mate and second mate went to the cargo hold to assess the injured person's condition.

A little later, the hatch covers opened and the injured person was lifted out of the cargo hold, using one of the deck cranes. He was shifted to the vessel's hospital, while the master established contact with MRCC Shantou to seek assistance. Afterwards, the ship diverted to Xiamen, while the master also sought medical assistance from Tele-Medical Advice, Gdynia.

Finally, the vessel dropped anchor at Xiamen anchorage on 16 February and the injured crew member was disembarked on a boat that the vessel's agent had hired.

Probable cause

Transport Malta's safety investigation concluded that the immediate cause of the accident was the crew member’s loss of balance near an inadequate barrier system, leading to a fall from a height.

When AB-1 tugged the fire hose forcibly the second time for more slack, a length of the hose fell on him, and caused the top protective railing to move upwards. As he lost his balance, he fell through the opening in the platform. There were a number of reasons why the railing failed:

  • The locking pin that would have locked the railing and prevent it from lifting upwards was never in place from the design stage of the ship, although it had been reported locked;
  • The intermediate railing between the platform floor and the top railing was never in place from the design stage of the ship;
  • An examination of the structure revealed that neither a locking pin nor an intermediate railing had been fitted since the vessel was brought into service in 2009.

It was estimated that the weight of one metre of pressurised hose was about 5.0 kgs. This suggest a weight of between 20 kgs and 25 kgs would be enough to either knock somebody off balance or for that person to instinctively move aside to avoid the falling weight.

Safety measures

During the course of the safety investigation, the company took the following measures to ensure safety:

  • The S&Q Department, along with the Operation Department compiled instructions to present a safe and correct way of preparation to clean / wash the cargo hold;
  • Securing pins have been installed on all removable handrails in way of the access platforms in order to ensure unintentional opening;
  • Instructions on working at height have been amended;
  • New and more comfortable lifelines and harnesses have been procured to replace the existing ones.

See more details on the accident, in the PDF herebelow