Nov 192008

Three fishermen recently died in an accident while living on board a fishing vessel alongside in port. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency, MCA, is extremely concerned that safety systems and precautions on board, intended for use at sea, were proved to be inadequate for use when the main electrical systems were shut down (dead ship).

Paul Coley, Assistant Director Seafarers and Ships, says:

A full investigation is being carried out by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, but the MCA consider it necessary to urgently warn owners, skippers, crews, agents and port authorities of the possible dangers fishermen face when living aboard vessels in port if the safety systems are not designed for it or have been shut down. Every owner and skipper should think very carefully about the risks when people are living on board their own vessels and take suitable precautions.

The MCA will be carrying out inspections of vessels in port and where conditions on board are clearly hazardous to health and safety, and then appropriate enforcement action will be taken.

Before these inspections owners, skippers, crews, agents and port authorities should consider the following questions:

Raising the Alarm:

1. Is the fire detection system working? Does it work when on shore power? Does the alarm sound in the accommodation and sleeping cabins? (Supplement with smoke detectors if necessary). What about other alarms such as, carbon dioxide, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and high level bilge?

2. Can someone outside the vessel raise the alarm, if crew are sleeping below deck? Do the crew know how to call for outside help (e.g. dial 999 or contact the harbour master, is there a mobile phone in the cabin)?

Means of Escape:

3. Are the escape routes clearly marked and well lit?

4. Do all sleeping cabins have at least two separate means of escape to open deck?

5. Is there a safe means of escape to shore?

6. If a fire in one location could block the escape, is an alternative available?

7. Are all doors and hatches in good working order and can be easily opened, at least from the inside?

8. Are fire doors self-closing or kept closed (Note: unapproved holdbacks must be removed – only electromagnetic holdbacks linked to the fire detection system will be acceptable)?

Shore Power:

9. Is the vessel on shore power? If so, are any safety systems (e.g. fire/gas detection) not working and are there alternatives?

10. If the vessel is relying on shore power for basic safety systems, is it safely installed with appropriate circuit breaker and sufficient for the necessary services all working together, for safety as well as any additional loads for domestic services; such as heating, lighting and ventilation? Is it reliable? If the shore power fails when the crew are asleep, will they know?

Fire Precautions:

11. Are heaters safe?

12. Wherever possible LPG and diesel open flame or catalytic heaters should be avoided. Where necessary is the installation in compliance with MGN 312 (storage of gas and mechanical ventilation)? Have heaters been regularly serviced? Are gas and carbon monoxide detectors provided?

13. Are other heaters clearly away from combustible materials?

14. Is the ventilation working? (Check that the crew have not tried to block them up. Are fire dampers including external ventilation flaps in working order?)

15. Are unapproved cooking or heating appliances being used? (e.g. some crew have been found cooking with portable gas cookers in their cabins). Free standing heaters should not be used.

16. Are all electric appliances safe, with correct wiring, fuses (e.g. radios, TVs, toasters, kettles, phone chargers etc)?

17. Have the crew been familiarised with these basic safety precautions, including their escape routes and safety systems?

Are fire extinguishers available, serviced and ready for immediate use?

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