Report: Alcohol Contributed to Fatal Crushing Accident on Freighter
The UK's Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its report on a fatal accident aboard the freighter Karina C in May 2019. The officer was intoxicated, according to the agency, and he was crushed by a moving gantry crane while he attempted to cross over a stack of hatch covers.
On the morning of May 24, 2019, the Karina C was completing cargo operations and preparing to sail on an accelerated timetable. The chief officer called for help from all hands, including the second officer, who was woken early after three hours of sleep and asked to return to duty.
The second officer arrived on deck at about 0930 hours, and he began helping the crew to sweep residual dust from the last cargo off the hatch coamings so that the hatches could be closed up. At 0944, he climbed up on the coaming next to a stack of hatch covers. At the same time, the chief officer was moving the gantry crane in his direction, and the gantry's access platform crushed the second officer against the stack of covers, leaving a clearance of 13 centimeters (five inches) for the 210-pound man. The victim fell off the coaming and struck his head on the walkway's guardrail as he went down. He lost consciousness and died shortly after.
The cause of the victim's death was not immediately known to his crewmates. An emergency services doctor who was told that the second officer had fallen down concluded that the victim had probably died from a heart attack. However, a postmortem exam revealed that the victim had died of internal bleeding from blunt trauma. An examination of the vessel's CCTV camera footage revealed the nature of the accident, which was then reported to the authorities.
The accident occurred on the second officer’s birthday, and a toxicology report showed that he had a "significant quantity" of alcohol in his bloodstream, according to MAIB.
After investigation, MAIB concluded that:
- the victim's judgement and perception of risk were likely impaired by alcohol and fatigue;
- The victim and the chief officer were not in communication about their movements;
- The vessel's safety culture was weak;
- and the operator's drug and alcohol policy was not being adequately enforced.
A nearly identical gantry crane accident occurred on another vessel in the same operator's fleet in March 2019 (though without any contribution from intoxicants). The company has since strengthened its safety and compliance measures, including frequent random testing and sanctions for vessel masters in the event of safety policy breaches.
"Ship’s decks are dangerous places and this accident could have been avoided if personnel operating Karina C’s deck that day had adhered to established safe working practices. The limited space available and ambient noise on deck mean that travelling gantry cranes, common on many operators’ vessels, can be particularly hazardous. Recently they have been involved in a number of fatal accidents and the MAIB is currently investigating another tragic death in similar circumstances. The accident on Karina C is a further case where excess alcohol consumption almost certainly contributed to the death of a seafarer," concluded MAIB in an advisory.