202422: Hatch cover crush fatality

27 Mar 2024 MARS

As edited from Marine Department (Hong Kong) report published October 2022

A bulk carrier in ballast was underway for the next port of loading. The deck crew were coating the vessel’s holds with lime in preparation for cargo. Some crew were in the hold applying the lime while others, in support, were on deck. An officer was on deck in an overall supervisory role.

In the late afternoon the hold coating operation work was nearing completion. The officer in charge needed to take photos of the coated holds, as required by the charterer. He slipped in between the partially open hatch cover and the hatch coaming to take the pictures. The crew members in the cargo hold heard the sound of the hatch cover moving
and a loud yell.

The crew members working in the cargo hold came out to the main deck and asked why the hatch cover was closed. The deck crew replied that no one was operating the hatch cover at the time; they had not closed it. The officer was then found caught between the now closed hatch cover and the coaming. A return hydraulic oil hose for the hatch
cover operation had ruptured and the hydraulic oil spilled on deck. This had caused the closure of the hatch by gravity.

The victim was killed instantly. His body was recovered from the scene as soon as the hatch cover control was repaired. Two days later, upon arrival at port the victim’s body was delivered to shore authorities.

The investigation found, among others, that the hatch cover hydraulic lines and fittings were not incorporated into the vessel’s planned maintenance system (PMS) so that the manufacturer’s recommendations for use, maintenance and inspection could be correctly employed.


Lessons learned

  • The victim probably did not realise he was putting himself in a dangerous position – only the hydraulic pressure was keeping the hatch cover open. When this pressure was released due to a line failure the hatch cover quickly closed by gravity.
  • Keeping hatches slightly open using only hydraulic pressure is a dangerous practice. Any deficiency in the hydraulic line can cause the hatch to quickly close without warning.
  • Shipboard safety management system (SMS) procedures and the PMS should incorporate manufacturer’s recommended operation, maintenance and inspection intervals.