Two men, a Russian chief officer and a Ukrainian chief engineer have died in a hold containing timber while a third, a Filipino second officer who attempted to rescue them collapsed by survived. The incident is under investigation by the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch while the report will not be available for some time the incident does highlight the confined space hazards of timber in cargo holds and the continuing problem of would-be rescuers being overcome while attempting to recover victims.Sally Ann C is a 9000 gt Isle of Man-registered general cargo ship operated by Carisbrooke Shipping, based on the Isle of Wight. At the time of the incident she was carrying a cargo of timber en route to Dakar, Senegal.
All that is presently known is that the chief officer and chief engineer entered one of the vessel’s four holds and collapsed. Subsequently the second officer tried to rescue them but also collapsed. He was successfully revived.
Timber in its various forms, from pellets to logs is hazardous. Oxidation of wood reduced oxygen in the atmosphere and produces a range of potentially hazardous gases including carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide.
In the Suntis incident in 2014, for example, the Fire and Rescue Service analysis of the atmosphere after the accident showed normal readings (20.9%) of oxygen content at the access hatch; the readings reduced to 10% just below main deck level inside the hatch opening and to between 5% and 6% at the bottom of the ladder into the compartment (Figure 2). Such low levels of oxygen cannot support life. Anyone exposed to such levels will faint almost immediately, followed by convulsions, coma and respiratory seizure within a few minutes. It is likely that the timber cargo caused the deprivation of oxygen in the cargo hold and access compartments.
In 2010 another chief officer died, along with a member of the deck crew who tries to rescue him, aboard the bulker TPC Wellington. In the case the chief officer had been warned against entry by the bosun but ignored the warning. It took less than 1o minutes for the chief officer and the man who tried to rescue him to die.
New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission noted: “The dangers of the organic decomposition of logs and other organic cargos in enclosed spaces are well known in the international maritime community, and were documented on board the TPC Wellington, but in spite of this the high risk this posed to the crew had not been identified, no specific training had been given to the crew members to heighten their awareness of the risk, and no emergency drills had been conducted in recent times for rescue from enclosed spaces”.
In 2006 in Sweden 12 people were taken to hospital and five required decompression chamber treatment. Seven people have died and several have been injured under similar circumstances in Sweden over a two year period.
BIMCO issued a warning about the hazards presented by wood in 2005.
Sadly, two out of three confined space casualties are people who tried to rescue the first victim.
Confined space incident are common and completely avoidable.
All confined space rescue drills should be conducted as realistically as possible. You can use the many confined space accident reports, and podcasts, in MAC to increase your crew’s safety awareness.
The rules for surviving are simple:
Never enter a confined space unless absolutely necessary.
Complete the permit to work before entry
Alert rescue teams and the bridge
Assess the risks, including those presented by any cargo that may be in the space.
Put appropriate rescue equipment at the point of access.
Ensure that a safety monitor is in position outside the space who can raise the alarm.
Ventilate the space thoroughly before entry.
Test the atmosphere in the hold thoroughly before entry.
If possible wear an O2 monitor while inside the space.
When in Doubt, Stay Out.