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.
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.
Three men died after entering a confined space aboard the German-flagged general cargo ship Suntis at Goole docks, Humberside. Initial investigations by the UK’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB, show that signs were ignored, safety procedures were not followed and during the recovery of the three unconscious crewmen, safety equipment was used incorrectly and inappropriately.
MAIB has issued the following Safety Bulletin:
At approximately 0645 (UTC+1) on 26 May 2014, three crew members on board the cargo ship, Suntis, were found unconscious in the main cargo hold forward access compartment, which was sited in the vessel’s forecastle. The crew members were recovered from the compartment but, despite intensive resuscitation efforts by their rescuers, they did not survive.
Maritime New Zealand, MNZ, has issued a safety alert recommending loop lashing as the safest practice for securing timber deck cargoes to prevent damage or hazard to the ship and persons on board, and to prevent cargo loss.
A number of incidents have occurred around the world when best practice methods have not been used to secure cargoes resulting in injuries and loss of cargo overboard.
Says MNZ: “Any lashing practice must be able to overcome the transverse forces generated by the ship’s rolling movement. If the cargo is poorly lashed and the cargo moves during the voyage, it can cause a ship to lose stability. At present, the most common practice for securing timber deck cargoes to a ship is top-over lashing.”
Top-over lashing is a frictional lashing practice that applies vertical pressure that increases the friction force between the outer stows of deck cargo and the ship’s deck or hatch-cover. Top-over lashing as the sole securing practice for timber deck cargoes is sufficient only when the friction is very large or the expected transverse acceleration is very small. This practice is not recommended other than for vessels trading in restricted sea areas, inland or sheltered waterways.
MAC has previously drawn attention to the hazards of wood pellets, only added to the IMO’s Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes , the BC Code, in 2005, BIMCO is also expressing concern about these hazards.
Says a BIMCO alert: “Although two investigations were carried out on the carriage of wood pellets, no intensive literature has been produced. Therefore, the information below is based on comments obtained generally regarding this commodity.
Wood pellets, produced from sawdust and wood shavings containing no additives or binders are not the same as wood pulp pellets, which are made of compacted wood chips. The shipment of wood pellets carries with it two main hazards: combustion hazards and carbon monoxide emissions.