According to sources, the ship was en route from Kalimantan to Osaka, Japan, carrying wood, when the three crew members lost consciousness after entering a cargo hold. The ship interrupted voyage and the crewmen were transported to Ishigaki for medical care, but they did not recover. The cause of the accident is believed to be extreme low levels of oxygen inside the hold.

The incident coincides with the launch of an official campaign by InterManager, the international trade association for the shipmanagement sector, aiming to stimulate seafarers to think about safety issues when working in enclosed spaces and encourage them to identify and share measures which they believe would reduce risks.

How may a seafarer be suspicious that a space he/she is about to enter is dangerous (if no relevant poster or sign exists)? A space like the above:

  1. has limited openings for entry and exit;
  2. has inadequate ventilation; and
  3. is not designed for continuous worker occupation

Another similar incident was reported in September, involving two RMI-flagged vessels with three fatalities in less than 24 hours.

On the aftermath, the Marshall Islands administrator advised that Ship Managers review their confined space entry procedures and, if necessary revise them, to ensure they comply with the requirements outlined in RMI Marine Notice 7-041-1. The Administrator also strongly recommends that ship managers send a letter or bulletin to all vessels in their managed fleet addressing:

  • the dangers of improperly entering a confined space;
  • how to recognize a confined space and examples of the different types of confined spaces a seafarer might encounter while performing their day-to-day ship board tasks;
  • that all seafarers, regardless of how junior or senior, must not enter a confined space without permission and then only in accordance with ship management’s established procedure;
  • who on-board is authorized to permit entry into a confined space; and
  • that the best way for a seafarer to assist a fellow seafarer inside a confined space is to immediately raise the alarm so that an organized rescue can be conducted in accordance with ship management’s established procedure.

2. The Administrator also strongly recommends that Masters:

  • hold a special safety meeting to review the letter or bulletin issued by ship management and share the information provided in this MSA, with particular emphasis on enforcing the responsibility that all seafarers have to prevent confined space entry related incidents and the need for crewmembers to resist their natural urge to immediately enter a confined space in order to try to assist a fellow crewmember;
  • review the vessel’s confined space entry procedures with the vessel’s officers and crew and then conduct confined space entry training; and
  • conduct a confined space rescue drill.