Never ride a moving accommodation ladder is the simplest of the lessons learned from the Brazilian Maritime Authority investigation of the failure of a descending accommodation ladder which resulted in the death of a deck officer and fall of a pilot and AB. The ladder fell because a critical pin attaching it to a retaining plate on the ship had rusted through.
As the bulker MV Alpha moored in Rio De Janeiro on the afternoon of 1 December the accommodation ladder was gradually lowered by its davit. Standing on it were the 3rd Officer, on the upper platform, the pilot who was to disembark and one crewmember who was descending the accommodation ladder so he could jump to the quayside and assist in positioning the lower platform and finalize the mounting of the handrails.
During the lowering the accommodation ladder, with the 3rd Officer still on the upper platform, it moved out of its base. This displacement provoked the inclination and partial fall of the accommodation ladder, throwing to the quay the people that were on it.
The Pilot and crewmember did not suffer significant injuries but the Deck Officer descended in a free fall of around 11m, hitting the edge of the quay and rolled into the water.
The 3O was rescued, still alive, but died later in hospital.
The accommodation ladder detached because a pin linking to a retaining platform onboard ship had rusted through due to lack of maintenance.
Britain’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB, reviewed a number of incidents involving accommodation ladders in its report of an incident aboard the Ever Elite:
Six accommodation ladder hoist failures have been reported to the MAIB in the last five years, two of which resulted in the loss of life. In one of these cases, which occurred in early 2006, an AB was thrown overboard and died. The accommodation ladder hoist wire parted while the AB was rigging the handrails on board a cargo ship as it entered a UK port. He was not wearing a safety harness or lifejacket and was not being supervised while working over the ship’s side. A tug had been standing by at the time of the accident and the AB’s body was recovered within 10 minutes of entering the water. The hoist wire was found to be in very poor condition.
On 12 June 2006 a crewman drowned after falling overboard from the accommodation ladder of the oil tanker Formosa Thirteen as it departed Wellington Harbour in New Zealand. The accommodation ladder had been rigged in combination with the pilot ladder in preparation to disembark the pilot. The conditions were too rough for the pilot to leave the vessel, and the crew were instructed to secure the accommodation ladder. One crewman descended the ladder without a lifejacket or safety harness and was washed over the side by rough seas. The investigation report produced by Maritime New Zealand found that the ship had not been provided with approved working lifejackets, permits for working outboard were not used and, despite the procedures set out in the ship’s ISM manual, the work was not supervised by an officer.
On 26 January 2006 the boatswain on board the German registered container vessel Heinrich S died after falling from the accommodation ladder. He was rigging its handrails without a safety harness and fell backwards, striking the quay before entering the water. An investigation by Germany’s Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation found that the manufacturer’s instructions were not comprehensive and that the ship owner had not provided anchorage points to allow crew to clip their fall prevention equipment to the ship’s structure. The investigation report noted that such safety devices did not form part of the accommodation ladder system but are usually provided by shipyards at the request of owners.
On 26 November 2004 two crewmen fell from an accommodation ladder into the water when the ladder was hit by a launch. The crew were disembarking from MV Chenan while the vessel was anchored at Ko Si Chang in Thailand. Neither crewman was wearing a lifejacket and one drowned.
Many of the accommodation ladders fitted to the bulk carriers using the Australian port of Newcastle are unable to reach the quay and have to be used while suspended. Following a spate of hoist wire failures, including one which resulted in three crewmen entering the water, the port authority recommended all visiting ships using suspended ladders to rig preventer wires. As a result, Nakano developed an adjustable preventer, or sub-wire, arrangement for its single flight accommodation ladder systems for use on vessels operating in Australian waters.