The incident

The vessel completes a 24 hour rotation between two ports, six days a week. The deck crew were employed to load and lash vehicles. Five crew were involved in this operation on the upper vehicle deck and were loading two pieces of unaccompanied freight being reversed in by a shore tug-master.

Normally crew members guiding reversing freight into position stand in a position of safety while they are directing the tug driver. Once the trailer is in the correct position a whistle is then blown by the banksman to indicate that the tug should stop.

The tug driver reversed the trailer, jack-knifing to the left and right to achieve a straight trajectory and line the trailer up with the freight already parked. He was expecting to hear a whistle signal from the banksman when the trailer reached the correct position. Meanwhile, the crew member acting as the banksman had moved from a position of safety and was crushed between the rear of the trailer and a vent housing. The whistle signal instructing the tug driver to stop was not given.

Lessons learned

Although derived from the company’s internal investigation, the UK MAIB shared the following lessons, as they are also relevant for the crews of many vessels engaged in ro-ro operations.

  • A safe system of work is required to ensure no crew member moves into a dangerous zone behind moving freight.
  • Whistle signals should only be used to stop a vehicle. Whistle means STOP.
  • Crew members and tug drivers need to work as a team. Watch my Back – always look after your team mates.
  • Training should involve both ship and shore teams working together.
  • If the tug driver loses sight of the banksman he must stop.
  • If the banksman loses sight of the tug driver he must blow his whistle.