202428: Green water on deck causes one fatality and several injuries

29 Apr 2024 MARS

As edited from Marshall Islands Maritime Administrator report published August 2021

A loaded chemical/oil products tanker was underway in heavy weather. The vessel was facing 6m head seas and water was frequently shipping over the bow and forecastle. Speed was reduced to about 6 knots and crew were not allowed on deck.

The water ingress alarm for the bosun’s store sounded in the engine control room, and the duty engineer immediately notified the Officer of the Watch (OOW) on the bridge. It was suspected that the forecastle deck hatch (1.4m X 1m) to the bosun’s store had been compromised, allowing water to enter the compartment. The Master considered that uncontrolled flooding of the bosun’s store could have an adverse effect on the ship’s trim and stability. He decided that immediate action must be taken to investigate the water ingress and reduce the flooding. The Master did not seek assistance from the company with calculating the effect on the ship’s stability of the flooded bosun’s store, nor was the company notified of the water ingress.

The Master attempted to turn the ship 180 degrees to decrease the water being shipped before the crew went forward but the vessel rolled so much that this was not possible. Six crew then went on deck and made their way to the forecastle. They were wearing the required PPE, including lifejackets and safety harnesses attached to lifelines. They found that the forward edge of the deck hatch and coaming had been slightly deformed inward. This created a small gap between the hatch cover gasket and the hatch coaming which was allowing water to enter the bosun’s store with each successive wave that broke over the bow.

It was decided that the entire hatch would be covered to slow the water ingress. The crew began to bind rubber and plastic over the damaged hatch. Suddenly, a large wave broke over the bow and the crewmembers working forward were knocked off their feet and swept across the deck. All the crewmembers’ lifelines were still attached at the time. The Master raised the alarm and ordered additional crewmembers to don PPE for working on deck. The rescue party went forward with first aid supplies and a stretcher. Five crew were found injured while one was uninjured. All five injured crewmembers were taken to the ship’s hospital.

All five victims had serious injuries; one victim had suffered a significant injury to his forehead and was in critical condition. Despite best efforts, the Master pronounced the victim deceased later that day.

Lessons learned

  • Even with lifelines secured and PPE, going forward with water on deck can be a very dangerous endeavour.
  • When in doubt, contact the company to receive guidance. In this case, a stability calculation may have shown that even with a flooded bosun’s store the vessel would have been safe and sending crew forward an unnecessary risk.