The Republic of the Marshall Islands issued an alert informing of two confined space entry incidents on an RMI-flagged tanker and an RMI-flagged bulk carrier, which occurred within approximately 24 hours of each other, resulting in deaths of three seafarers and two seafarers losing consciousness.
Although the details of these incidents differ, based on the Administrator’s preliminary investigations, both involved:
- experienced officers directing junior seafarers to enter a confined space that they knew was not safe for entry and without complying with the vessel’s established confined space entry procedures;
- the officer not informing the Master that a confined space was going to be entered; and
- seafarers, including senior officers, ignored their training and instead entering the confined space on their own initiative and without use of proper equipment to assist a fellow crewmember who had entered the space and gotten into difficulty.
The Administrator’s preliminary investigations also determined that:
- on one of the vessels there was an established history of the vessel’s Master knowing that confined spaces were entered without complying with the established confined space entry procedures; and
- on one of the vessels an experienced officer entered the confined space after the rating, who had been directed to enter the space, refused to do so because the proper procedures were not being followed.
These incidents serve as a stark reminder that entering a confined space without following proper procedures can result in seafarers being killed and/or seriously injured. They are also reminders that a well-intentioned seafarer who enters a confined space to assist a fellow crewmember will likely become a victim requiring assistance. This may also delay a proper rescue operation and increase the potential for one or more deaths.
1. RMI advises 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.
Below is a safety poster by the Marine Accident Investigators’ International Forum (MAIIF) reminding seafarers that they should not enter a confined space without proper authorization: