Nothing was learned from the report by New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission on two fatalities aboard the TPC Wellington bulker except that lessons are not being learned about the dangers of confined space entry. A chief officer with plentiful experience in the particular cargo loaded, logs, entered a confined space, collapsed, followed by another member of the deck crew. Both died in less than 10 minutes.
Neither the ship’s owner, nor those in command of the vessel, had equipped the crew with the awareness or training to enter the space safely or to be rescued should an incident occur.
The scenario is frustratingly familiar. It is one that will continue to kill seafarers in large numbers until the maritime industry as a whole, from those working on deck to those commanding multi-million dollar enterprises, in the public and private sectors, as well a professional organisations and labour unions come together to make forceful efforts to reduce this unacceptable toll.
In its summary of the report TAIC says: “On the afternoon of 3 May 2010, the bulk log carrier TPC Wellington was loading logs in Port Marsden, Northland. When the chief officer entered a cargo hold that was full of logs that had been loaded at a previous port, he rapidly lost useful consciousness (lost the ability to hold on to the ladder) and fell from the ladder onto the cargo below.