The incident

NS Tera arrived at Valletta on 16 April 2018 and berthed at Laboratory Wharf at 1700 to discharge cargo of rolled steel products.

Discharge operations started immediately, but were suspended for the night and resumed the following morning.

Cargo operations were conducted by two stevedore gangs and two shore cranes.

At around 1440 on 17 April, while the gang at the aft end was slinging a steel coil, one of the stevedores attempted to arrange the chain sling through one of the coils.

In the process, he was caught between two adjacent coils from the chest area. He was immediately assisted by his colleagues and transferred to a local hospital after being freed.

The safety investigation revealed that during his attempt to arrange the chain sling, one of the steel coils dislodged itself and entrapped the stevedore.


  1. Successive tiers of coils were stowed in a tight block stow, each coil overlapping the coils below, and secured against the ship’s side, up to the cargo hatch coaming, as recommended by international standards;
  2. A Health and Safety Guidelines List, read out to the stevedores made reference to cargo instability during cargo operations;
  3. During cargo discharge operations, 4” x 4” timber was used by the stevedores to prevent transverse movement of the steel coils;
  4. The methodology adopted by the stevedores onboard was correct and not considered to be a contributing factor to this accident;
  5. The security band around the steel coil bundle had become undone, freeing the top section of the coil which then moved slightly, pinning the stevedore against the adjacent steel coil;
  6. The dynamic characteristic of the situation per se puts a significant burden on the stevedores who, while being occupied with the cargo operations, are also tasked to keep a watchful eye on how a wider context is evolving;
  7. Although not contributory to the accident, the absence of full complement of stevedores and another person overseeing a cargo operation remains, in terms of safety, a missing barrier system.


Transport Malta recommended the Port Workers Co-Operative to:

  • use this safety investigation report as a case study and disseminate the identified safety lessons to its members;
  • adopt procedures to ensure that actual number of persons attending the cargo operations reflects the assigned level of persons;
  • ensure that Port Workers’ Health and Safety Representative is available for cargo safety checks along with the VGT officials.

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