Something is deeply wrong with an industry in which so many can die so often in tragedies entirely avoidable. One death, three injured and one escape from a hold containing wood pellets aboard the Polish-flagged bulker Corina this week brings the number of confined space casualties to eleven within the past month. Such losses are unacceptable.
The latest incident, reports gCaptain, occured in Hanstholm. Denmark. Four crew members were found unconscious in a cargo hold while a fifth person is believed to have escaped the area. The number of casualties strongly suggests a common scenario in which would-be rescuers have come to grief attempting to save an initial casualty.
Within the past month three dockworkers died aboard the Saga Frontier in Antwerp while cleaning a hold which had formerly carried coal. Prior to that two officers died and a crewmember was hospitalised in an incident aboard the Sally Ann C, in a hold containing timber. off the coast of Senegal.
While this concentration of incidents in such a short period may be a statistical ‘blip’, they may also be just the tip of an iceberg. Because the largest flag states are reluctant to participate in fact-finding related to assessing the prevalence of accidents aboard there ships the true level of the problem remains a matter for speculation and anecdote.
Recently, seafarers’ union Nautilus protested at the number of incidents taking place and demanded action.
‘The tragic accidents in enclosed spaces have resulted in a spate of investigation reports and resulting recommendations, as well as a steady flow of material to reinforce the precautions that should be taken,’ Dickinson told the minister.’ However, the continued death toll should surely tell us that something is wrong with this approach. I hope you can support our aim to deliver innovative thinking to address the situation and to find improved ways of tackling some of the fundamental problems. We really cannot afford to continue witnessing the shocking scale of fatalities that currently blight the industry.’
Even though a number of flag states are implementing new IMO regulations a year early – they come into force in 2016 – stopping these tragedies will that more than hot air and spit.