201970 Crew member swept overboard through pilot boarding access door

17 Oct 2019 MARS 2019

As edited from USCG (USA) Safety Alert 05-19

A large container vessel was arriving at port in heavy weather; approx 40 knot winds and almost four metre swells. The vessel manoeuvred at about 10 knots to make a lee in preparation to embark a pilot via the side shell access door, 3.9 metres above the water. Two crew members were in the process of opening the pilot access door when the vessel was hit by heavy seas that forced the door open and flooded the embarkation space. As the seawater swirled and splashed in the space it swept one crewman out of the door and into the sea. Another crew member was injured.

Extensive search and rescue operations failed to locate the lost crew member, who was not wearing a personal flotation device.

Lessons learned

  • If the side shell door is close to the height of the seas, there can be significant risks to persons in the boarding area.
  • This event brings to the fore the importance of crew members wearing personal protection devices and safety lines when working
  • over the side of a vessel, when exposed to the elements or when there is no barrier to prevent an accidental water entry.
  • Identify potential hazards and conduct a risk assessment prior to opening the side shell port hatches.