Catastrophic failure of a hatch-lid gantry crane on the dry cargo vessel Blue Note on 22 July 2 011, resulting in a close-call for three seafarers, highlights the importance of safety considerations in equipment design. As with certain lifeboats, the design of the gantry crane affected made it difficult to see whether hooks were properly secured while an attitude of expediency rather than safety prevailed onboard.
Says the recently released UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB, report: ” The design of the crane made it difficult for ships’ staff to verify if the lifting hooks were correctly engaged in the lifting sockets provided on the hatch-lids… There was no risk assessment covering the operation of the crane and movement of the hatch-lids. As a consequence, ship’s staff had adopted poorly considered working procedures that focused on expediency rather than safety”.
The result was that on 22 July 2011, the hatch-lid gantry crane derailed while it was carrying a single hatch-lid to its stowed position in preparation for discharging cargo.
The derailment caused the chief officer, who had been riding on one of the crane’s wheel units, to be thrown overboard; an able seaman, who had been riding on another wheel unit, to be left hanging by his hands over the 8.4m deep hold; and the second officer, who was operating the crane, to fall to the deck of the control platform. All three crewmen were lucky
to escape with only minor injuries.
The MAIB investigation found the most likely cause of the accident was that the port side lifting hooks of the gantry crane were not correctly engaged with the hatch-lid’s sockets during an operation to move the lid aft to its open stowage position. This led to the port hooks becoming disengaged as the lid was being moved, causing it to fall and pivot about the starboard lifting hooks. The hatch-lid struck the starboard legs of the gantry crane, causing it to derail while the port side continued to fall, finally coming to rest at the bottom of the cargo hold.
Safety issues which contributed to the accident included:
• The design of the crane made it difficult for ships’ staff to verify if the lifting hooks were correctly engaged in the lifting sockets provided on the hatch-lids.
• There was no manufacturer’s instruction manual for the crane on board Blue Note.
• Upkeep of the crane was not a specific part of the ship’s planned maintenance system.
• There were no records held on board of maintenance or repairs to the crane.
• There was no risk assessment covering the operation of the crane and movement of the hatch-lids. As a consequence, ship’s staff had adopted poorly considered working procedures that focused on expediency rather than safety.
A recommendation has been made to the owners of Blue Note which is designed to promote general safe working practices across its fleet while specifically addressing the safety issues identified relating to the operation of the gantry crane.
have also been made to the manufacturer of the gantry crane which seek to ensure that ship owners and ships’ staff are provided with clear guidance on the safe operation and maintenance of this equipment.