Jan 102016

Perhaps the most important part if the viral video of the Carnival Ecstasy tragedy in which an electrician was crushed to death in an elevator is not the sheet of blood running down the elevator doors but the final image of the barriers in place outside the elevator doors. That is the image that should be burned into our memories because had the elevator been isolated and inoperable then 66-year old Italian crewmember Jose Sandoval Opazo may not have died in such horrific circumstances.

Investigations are underway which will certainly examine onboard procedures for elevator maintenance, the vessel’s SMS, the design of the elevators and why the elevator was not isolated in such a way as to prevent its mechanism being energised accidentally or deliberately. It is, however, just the latest tragedy of its kind in both the maritime and offshore industries.

In 2011 an Assistant Electrical Officer died inside a ship elevator on board the Hong Kong registered bulk carrier vessel Taiju at Ube Anchorage in Japan

A year previously the chief engineer on board the UK registered containership Ever Excel was killed when he became trapped between the top of the ship’s passenger elevator and the edge of the elevator shaft at Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

In 2007 an electrical technician was crushed to death aboard British Mallard berthed at the BP Kwinana oil refinery. That same year an electrical cadet died aboard MSC Colombia off Cape Canaveral.

Nor are elevator-related deaths limited to crushing incident, falls down lift shafts led to deaths on OOCL Montreal in 2003 in Le Havre,  HMS Bulwark in 2015, and in 2009 a barge master aboard the offshore semi-submersible drilling rig Sedco 700.

A commentary by the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Program’s (CHIRP) Facebook page says: “we should ask ourselves, after the publication of the safety lessons learned in the formal incident reports on similar fatalities maintaining shipboard elevators, why were these all so easily forgotten?…Perhaps it is time to ask: What mandatory specialist lift maintenance training should these maintenance personnel receive?”

MAIB’s report on the Ever Excel incident sums up many of the causes of such incidents: “…all the safety barriers that could have prevented the accident had been ignored, reset, or circumvented. The risks associated with lift maintenance and inspection had not been considered”.
So, as we look at the last shot in that disturbing video we should be asking ourselves what barriers we have in place on our own vessels, and are they working. Having them in place before hand is certainly better than putting them in later after a body’s been taken to the morgue.

Taiju Report

Ever Excel

British Mallard

MSC Colombia

Sedco 700

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