The incident

A general cargo vessel was about to discharge packaged sawn timber in a small Caribbean port. Before the discharging started, the master informed the crew of the importance of slinging each timber package at equal distances to maintain its centre of gravity.


Discharge began in the evening. This chief officer had turned on the cargo floodlights and all crew members were wearing proper PPE such as boiler suits, high visibility vests, safety shoes and hard hats. The 3rd officer and an AB were in cargo hold 1. The chief officer and an AB were in cargo hold 2.

The vessel’s cargo cranes were operated by the bosun and an AB. On the quay there were three stevedores. The crew connected the slings to the cargo in the cargo holds. However, just before midnight there were some issues with the slings in hold 1 so the 3rd officer called the bosun on the VHF and told him that the slings needed to be repositioned.

A little after, the 3rd officer climbed onto the timber package and grabbed one of the slack slings. He told the bosun on the radio to take up the slack and start hoisting slowly. The AB held the slings on the inboard side, in order to prevent the timber from moving out of position.

As the slings tensioned and the timber was hoisted, one of the slings snapped and led the entire timber package to start swinging. The package was about 4m above the tanktop and the 3rd officer lost his balance and fell straight down onto it.

The AB in hold 1 called the bosun and master on the radio, while the cargo operation stopped. The chief officer then climbed quickly into the cargo hold, while the 3rd officer was lying on his back with his right leg bent at an unnatural angle, with himg being semi-conscious.

The master called an ambulance while the chief officer gave first aid. The 3rd officer complained about severe pain in his back and leg. He also could not breath easily. A stretcher was arranged by the crew and the 3rd officer was lifted onto the quay by the crane.

After about 30 minutes, the ambulance arrived. At the hospital the 3rd officer was found to have a broken leg and serious back injuries. He was not able to continue working at sea.