Five investigators from the UK’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch spent the night of Wednesday June 11 aboard the cruise ship Saga Rose, docked at Southampton, inquiring into the death of a 43 year old second bosun, one of two Filipino crewmen trapped in one of the vessel’s ballast tanks. The ship’s 300-strong crew is devastated, they’ve been together for 10 years, they’ve lost one of their own, and yet another family in the Philippines will lit yet another candle in a cemetary at All Soul’s in November.
It will probably be many months before the MAIB’s final report is released, it would be unwise to speculate on details, but already it is evident that safe entry procedures were not followed.
Initially, the two men were thought missing and a search was conducted, which eventually found them trapped inside a ballast tank. One man had breathing apparatus and survived, the other died almost certainly because of lack of oxygen in the ballast tank atmosphere.
That reveals that no safety watch was kept at the access to the tank with a means of communication in case something went wrong.
The tank was not adequately ventilated prior to entry. If it had been, the crewman would probably not have died.
It seems unlikely that the atmosphere in the tank was tested prior to entry or during the inspection they were apparently carrying out.
None of the ship’s officers appear to have known that the two men were in the tank. If proper procedures had been followed they would have known and been able to monitor events.
Because procedures were not followed a man is dead, a close-knit crew is distraught, a family is grieving.
The unnerving consistency with which these events occur is unacceptable and indicates something deeply amiss in training, competency and safety behaviour throught the industry.