Nov 092010

Star Ismene

It probably seemed like a good idea on the drawingboard: save money and space by using passageways and other rooms used by the crew as ventilation ducts. That idea contributed to what could have been a triple fatality aboard the open hatch bulk carrier Star Ismene in December 2009 says a newly released report from Norway’s Accident Investigation Board, AIBN.

As a result of the design it was unclear what constituted a confined space onboard and no risk assessment had been done which would lead to a more informed safety management system and educated the crew. Says AIBN: “this contributed to the ship’s crew establishing a practice that was regarded as safe, but without clearly understanding which parts of the ship were to be regarded as enclosed spaces at any time”.

The incident highlights the need to be cautious about entering spaces adjacent to known confined spaces. Says the AIBN report: “In the Accident Investigation Board’s opinion, it would have been expedient if these risks of personal injury had been identified already in the design phase”.

It also highlights the need to train seafarers not to enter a space to attempt a rescue with the proper equipment and support. Those who attempt to do otherwise most often become just another statistic.

One of MAC’s pet hate objects turns up in the report a non-ship-specific SMS: “The problem of the shipping company and the ship’s safety management system not being sufficiently ship-specific was not identified in the supervisory authority’s audits of the system”. Non-specific safety documents are themselves a hazard, among the victims of this trade in paper with little value, other than the magic word compliance, is BP.

In addition the Material Safety Data Sheet, MSDS, provided to the ship did not make it clear that the copper concentrate consumes oxygen and emits CO2.Here’s a brief summary: “The Star Ismene was in Nantong to offload copper concentrate. Before the unloading operation could commence, two cargo inspectors boarded the ship on 16 December 2009 in order to determine the volume of cargo. One cargo inspector accompanied the chief mate to read the foot marks, and the other accompanied the deck repairman and a shipping agent to sound the bunker and ballast tanks.

“The sounding pipes are located in the enclosed spaces between the coamings of the large hatch covers, and these rooms are accessed from the passageway on the starboard side, via a landing in the shaft leading down to the cargo hold and, from there, up into the rooms between the hatch coamings. In order to gain access to the sounding pipes between holds 6 and 7, the deck repairman
opened the hatch for accessing cargo hold 7, which held copper concentrate, and climbed down together with the shipping agent. Down on the landing, the deck repairman lost consciousness. The agent, however, managed to get out and ran to alert of the incident.

“Before a rescue operation was organised, the second mate went down to the area to help the deck repairman and was joined a short
time later by the deck hand on watch. The second mate came back up, but the deck hand lost consciousness and fell across the deck repairman. Following the accident, readings were taken that showed an oxygen content of 5.9% on the landing where the accident occurred”.

Read the full report here


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