The incident

On 02 January 2020, Stara Planina was steaming at reduced speed due to main engine issues, which had occurred on 01 January, and adverse weather conditions.

It was noticed that mooring ropes stored on the poop deck had scattered, while some of them were hanging over the vessel’s guard rails due to the inclement weather.

A party of crew members endeavoured to secure these mooring ropes. Two crew members were assisting from the poop deck, while the rest were handling the ropes on the first deck.

At one point, two consecutive, large waves washed over the poop deck, causing the two crew members working on the poop deck to fall overboard.

A search for the two crew members was carried out, involving two search and rescue helicopters from Norway’s coast guard; however, the operation was unsuccessful.



  1. The chief officer and the deck trainee were lost overboard when unexpected waves washed over the poop deck.
  2. Both the chief officer and the deck trainee were not secured to the vessel when unexpected waves washed over the poop deck.
  3. The immersion in, and exposure to cold water may have shortened the survival time of the chief officer and the deck trainee.
  4. The crew members were not wearing any lifejackets while working exposed on deck, in adverse weather conditions.
  5. Communication on an alternative stowage arrangement of the aft mooring ropes was not considered to be safety critical.
  6. It appeared that the approach applied to secure the aft mooring ropes, did not suffice to prevent the mooring ropes from scattering around the poop deck and over the rails in the encountered adverse weather conditions.
  7. The chief officer and the deck trainee released the line which they were using to secure themselves, suggesting that it was either impossible to walk back to the accommodation block with the line secured around their waists, and / or the task was considered complete and they were walking away from what was considered to be the hazardous area.
  8. The slow speed of the vessel due to the adverse weather conditions and the main engine malfunction made it difficult to turn around the vessel’s heading in the shortest of time.
  9. A regular rope was used instead of a safety harness.


Actions taken

The owner company has taken the following safety actions in response to this occurrence:

  • a Safety Circular was circulated to all the company’s fleet;
  • the case to be discussed with senior officers during ISM seminars;
  • extraordinary meetings were held onboard company vessels to bring this accident to attention to all crew;
  • consideration was given to locate safer storages onboard company vessels for the forward and aft mooring ropes;
  • the accident and the results from the company’s safety investigation were discussed with masters and chief engineers during their pre-boarding briefings;
  • meetings with all company masters were organized to discuss the accident and to provide further proposals to avoid similar incidents in the future;
  • inflatable lifejackets have been supplied to all company vessels.


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MV Stara Planina