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Transport Malta investigation report into fatality by toxic gases in bow thruster compartment

Photo credit: MSIU
Photo credit: MSIU

Transport Malta’s MSIU issued an investigation report on the fatality of a crew member onboard the Maltese-registered chemical tanker ‘Scot Berlin’ in August 2017. The immediate cause of the accident was the entry into a space which had a significant presence of toxic gases suspended in the air.

The vessel arrived at Marsaxlokk Oil Tanking Terminal loaded with two parcels of cargo. Following the completion of cargo operation, the crew members started the ballasting of the vessel since her next trip to Spain was a ballast voyage. Ballasting in the forepeak tank started under the supervision of the second mate.

About an hour later, at about 1300, a high bilge level alarm in the bow thruster compartment sounded on the vessel’s Alarm Monitoring System. The bosun proceeded forward to investigate. He immediately noticed water escaping from the forepeak tank’s manhole, reaching the bow thruster entrance, flowing over the sill plate and cascading on the bow thruster motor.

Consequently, one of the bilge alarms in the bow thruster compartment triggered the high level alarm. Aware of possible issues with the bow thruster motor, the chief engineer instructed the electrician to inspect the motor for any water damages. Prior to the commencement of the work, three safety documents were signed. The bow thruster electrical supply to the ventilation fan and the bow thruster motor was isolated.

As part of the cleaning process, the electrician sprayed the motor with an electrical cleaner using a pneumatic spray gun. He then proceeded to the messroom and returned to the bow thruster compartment at around 1600. About 20 minutes later, the bosun went to check on the electrician and found him unconscious, lying over the bow thruster tunnel.

Crew members were mustered and attempts made to lift the electrician from the bow thruster compartment. Eventually, shore assistance was requested and personnel from the local Civil Protection Department lifted the electrician to the open space on the forecastle deck. However, he was pronounced dead onboard.

Safety issues
– Preventive (corporeal) barrier systems focused on the hazard related to the bow thruster motor, i.e., electric shock;
– The environment inside the bow thruster compartment changed to a hazardous one just before the accident happened;
– At the time of the accident, the bow thruster compartment’s characteristics were similar to those of an enclosed space without being declared as such;
– The hazard and precautionary statements related to the use of the chemical were not discussed on the day of the accident;
– The electrician was not wearing any respiratory safety equipment;
– The limited amount of volume of chemical used may have led the electrician to believe that the extensive protective clothing was not required in this case;
– The isolation of the auxiliary switchboard resulted in the switching off of the bow thruster compartment ventilation, compromising the supply of fresh air inside the space;
– Vaporised cleaning chemical would have been entrapped inside the bow thruster compartment;
– It was not excluded that the electrician may have also lost his grip and fell from the lower section of the ladder / lower platform onto the bow thruster tunnel while holding the bottles of fresh water;
– The use of the electro cleaner (and the way it was applied) was critical, safety information that had not been communicated;
– The risk involved with the carriage of the three water bottles while going down the ladder was considered manageable by the electrician and it would have necessitated neither the assistance of other crew members nor the need to lower the bottles by a rope before going down the ladder;
– The electrician was unable to make use of knowledge and skills which his colleagues could have contributed towards a safer task.

Other findings
– At the shipyard, the physical and mental demands were high and the vessel’s schedule would have barely left time to the crew members to recover, not to mention the inevitable interruptions and other distractions which one would expect to encounter in similar places;
– Under high workload conditions, attention to all specifics in detail is simply difficult to achieve;
– Such is the nature of work at a shipyard that it is very likely that a necessary check (e.g. that all manhole covers are tight) is omitted because of some local distraction;
– Considering the nature of the work in the dry-docks, it was not excluded that the details in the documentation, time pressure, and coordination and communication breakdowns may have contributed to the omission of checking the tightness of the manhole cover;
– The bow thruster compartment did not classify as an enclosed space;
– The electrician was most probably going down the ladder but also somewhere close to the ladder’s lower platform;
– The chief engineer neither saw the electrician carrying the electro cleaner nor was he aware that the electro cleaner was actually used to clean the motor;
– The use and application of the electro cleaner was an initiative, which was adopted with all good intentions to minimise as much as possible the damage to the electrical components of the bow thruster motor;
– The nature of the tasks and the competence of the electrician were perceived as not necessitating formal team/group collaboration;
– At a time when team dynamics should have been applied, the complexity and urgency of the circumstances contributed to a condition where the master took initiatives of his own and even accessed the bow thruster compartment where, on his way down, he could smell a strong, chemical odour;
– The master accessed the bow thruster compartment without a rescue harness and safety lines, possibly because these may have been viewed as a hindrance to act quickly and time consuming to don at such critical time;
– The emotional preferences chosen by the master, who opted to make the (personal) entry initiative were seen to be more efficient in achieving the intended goal of (possibly) saving a crew member inside the bow thruster compartment;
– Rather than having a faulty perception of potential losses, the master had a positive effect associated with the perception of potential opportunities, i.e. saving the life of the electrician.

Read the investigation report in full: MSIU-Safety-investigation-into-the-fatality-on-board-the-Maltese-registered-chemical-tanker-SCOT-BERLIN

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Red Ensign Group members get boost to their expertise in casualty investigation

Raman Bala, Director of Shipping, British Virgin Islands (pictured) attending the MAIB training
Raman Bala, Director of Shipping, British Virgin Islands (pictured) attending the MAIB training

Red Ensign Group members have been attending an intensive course aimed at working with them to ensure their safety investigations of marine casualties and incidents are carried out in line with international requirements.

While the REG delegates are already experienced in such investigations, the course run by the UK-based Marine Accident Investigation Branch combines the requirements of the International Maritime Organization’s Casualty Investigation Code with its own experience and best practice.

David Wheal, principal inspector of marine accidents at the MAIB is one of the team that created the course. He said: ‘This is not designed to replace the formal training we would expect investigators to have. This course serves as a platform for future refresher and enhanced training.’

Captain Chris Locke, Marine Officer from the Falkland Islands who is one of those taking part said: ‘It’s been an intensive but very interesting two weeks. There’s been lots to learn and think about.’

And Raman Bala, director of shipping, from the British Virgin Islands, said: ‘The expertise and experience from the MAIB put into this course has proved invaluable.’

Richard Pellew, from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, who is co-chair of the REG Technical Forum said: ‘The requirements on flag States from IMO’s III Code and Casualty Investigation Code are very clear. The REG has an ongoing commitment to developing, upholding and maintaining the highest standards. Tapping into the world leading and unrivalled expertise offered from the MAIB will help us to do just that as we continue our work around enhancing compliance.’

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International Chamber of Shipping publishes free 32 page guide about new sulphur rule compliance from January 2020

To assist shipping companies to prepare for implementation of the UN IMO global sulphur cap for ships’ fuel oil, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has produced – free of charge – some comprehensive guidance on implementation planning, to help ensure compliance across the shipping industry with this regulatory game changer.

The free ICS guidance has been prepared for the vast majority of ships that will comply after 1 January 2020 using fuel oils with a sulphur content of 0.50% m/m or less.

ICS Secretary General, Guy Platten, explained:
“Shipping companies may need to start ordering compliant fuels from as early as the middle of 2019, and they are strongly recommended to commence developing implementation plans as soon as possible.”

Apart from the significant additional cost of compliant fuel, ICS says that implementation of the global cap will be far more complex than for the previous introduction of Emission Control Areas. This is because of the sheer magnitude of the switchover and the much larger quantities and different types of fuel involved, as well as continuing uncertainties about the availability, safety and compatibility of compliant fuels in every port worldwide.

ICS argues that if a ship – as now recommended by IMO – has a suitably developed implementation plan, then the ship’s crew should be in a better position to demonstrate to Port State Control that they have acted in ‘good faith’ and done everything that could be reasonably expected to achieve full compliance.

“This need to demonstrate good faith could be particularly important in the event that safe and compliant fuels are unavailable in some ports during the initial weeks of implementation,” said Mr Platten. “And IMO has provisionally agreed that Port State Control authorities may take into account the ship’s implementation plan when verifying compliance with the 0.5% sulphur limit.”

The new ICS guidance explains that the implementation process will need to address the possibility that some ships may need to carry and use more than one type of compliant fuel in order to operate globally. This could introduce additional challenges such as compatibility between different available grades of fuel that could have significant implications for the safety of the ship as well as its commercial operation.

While ICS is committed to helping to make the 2020 sulphur cap a success, the global trade association stresses that the full implementation picture is far from complete, and that primary responsibility for ensuring that compliant and compatible fuels will be available rests with oil suppliers, as well as those IMO Member States which have collectively agreed to implement this major regulatory change in 2020.

ICS also wants to see more progress by governments on addressing outstanding safety issues, including serious concerns about the fuel quality of new blended fuel oils, at the next meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee in December 2018.

Download the free 32 page pdf guide: ICS-guidance-on-implementation-of-2020-global-sulphur-cap

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The future of Bavaria Yachts and its entire staff is secured following sale to private equity fund

The boatbuilder, Bavaria Yachts, which went into administration in April this year, has been sold to a private equity fund advised by German based CMP Capital Management-Partners. The acquisition includes Bavaria Yachts with its 550 staff and all the shares in its subsidiary Bavaria Catamarans that employs 250 people.

The purchase will be completed after merger control clearance by the German Federal Cartel Office – expected in a couple of weeks.

“We are convinced of Bavaria’s global market potential and will sustainably develop the company,” said Kai Brandes, CMP Capital Management-Partners MD. “The restructuring measures will focus on regaining market share and improving production costs.”

Restructuring expert Dr Tobias Brinkmann, Bavaria Yachts MD since insolvency proceedings began, added: “Bavaria is an outstanding company with a strong brand, compelling products and a highly dedicated team. We are pleased to have found a well-known and experienced buyer in CMP who will lead Bavaria into the future.”

CMP’s private equity funds are advised by Berlin-based CMP Capital Management-Partners. With the investment in a company, CMP employees assume operative management responsibilities on site.

In the case of Bavaria, Dr Ralph Kudla, restructuring expert and partner at CMP, will join the executive board.

Bavaria Yachts has continued to operate throughout the period of administration with 220 yachts built and delivered.

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TT Club issues advice on dealing with container fires

To tackle a fire in a hold, TT Club notes a CO2 system will be installed if the ship is carrying dangerous goods.
To tackle a fire in a hold, TT Club notes a CO2 system will be installed if the ship is carrying dangerous goods.

According to TT Club, container fires are a far more regular occurrence than most people would realise. Statistics show there is a major container cargo fire at sea roughly every 60 days. So, tackling fires and subsequent investigations are complex and vitally important activities.

With increasing container ships size increases the risk of a fire incident increases too. Despite some regulatory and technical advances, the fact is that the ability to respond to a cargo-related fire at sea has not progressed as needed in recent times.

To tackle a fire in a hold, TT Club notes a CO2 system will be installed if the ship is carrying dangerous goods. The gas released from a CO2 system can displace the oxygen in the hold and smother the fire. However, for CO2 to be effective, the hold must be closed to retain the gas and prevent oxygen ingress.

If an incident has taken place in a container stowed on deck, water will be the only option available . Nevertheless, it is unlikely to extinguish a fire inside a container in the short term.

In addition, crew members should seek expert advice. The expert must provided with as much information as possible, including the location of the fire, the extent and description of the incident and, as a minimum, a copy of the cargo manifest.

Moreover, according to TT Club, if the fire is in a hold, flooding of the hold with water may be considered. This will require flooding to above the level of the containers involved and brings many additional problems. One of the potential problems is that there may be more damage results from the water than may have occurred from the fire.

As for the fire investigation, after an explosion or fire has happened, an investigation into the cause will be required. Most investigations follow a basic format. The starting point is often witness or electronic evidence. This involve gathering accounts of the events from the crew, including ‘where, when and what’. Photographs or videos of the early stages of an event are sometimes available.

Detection systems can also provide valuable information, such as where the smoke or fire was first detected. If the detection system is a gas extraction system samples or residues can be obtained from the inside of the extraction pipe work.

Once the available witness evidence is collected, an examination of the physical evidence will be conducted. This could provide directional indicators of blast and or fire movement and intensity.

During the physical examination, samples will be taken for laboratory analysis, the results of which may identify the cause of the event. This, however, can be very complex, TT Club concludes.

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