Two seafarers died of carbon monoxide poisoning whilst asleep on a fishing vessel in Whitby, which demonstrates that lessons over several years, warnings and alerts have had little impact. Poorly maintained equipment being used for purposes for which they were not designed. refusal to use alarms that save lives, on vessel not designed for people to sleep in lead to tragedy.
In the case of scallop-dredger Eshcol the two seafarers went to sleep tired and cold. doors and windows were closed. Heaters on the vessel did not work so to keep warm the seafarers lit the grill on the vessel’s four-year old cooker which had probably never been serviced. Neither the guidance for the installation of gas appliances on board small fishing vessels nor the cooker manufacturer’s instructions had been followed when the cooker was fitted. The metal gauze in the grill was holed and corroded, causing extraordinarily high levels of CO emissions.
Tests showed that when the grill was lit the resulting flames were predominantly yellow, indicating inefficient combustion. The grill was turned off following the activation of a personal gas detector which indicated that high levels of carbon monoxide were being emitted. Close inspection of the grill showed that the grill’s steel mesh was corroded and holed in several places
No gas alarm had been installed.
In addition to faulty heaters petrol-driven generators emitting carbon monoxide have ben responsible for numerous deaths.
Following investigation Recommendations have been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency which are intended to ensure that: the accommodation areas in all small fishing vessels are fitted with a carbon monoxide alarm; and the circumstances of this accident are taken into account during the intended alignment of the regulations for small fishing vessels with other commercially operated vessels of a similar size. A recommendation has been made to the Sea Fish Industry Authority, which is intended to raise the general awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide among fishermen and measures designed to raise the standard of safety management across his fleet have been recommended to the owner of Eshcol.
The dangers of carbon monoxide, an odourless and colourless gas, aboard fishing vessel and others has long been recognised. It is eight years since the Maritime and Coastguard Agency publicised its concerns regarding carbon monoxide poisoning. Evidentially the message has yet to get through.