Near miss: potential fall through CTV hatch

What happened?

A passenger on a crew transfer vessel (CTV) came very close to falling down an open hatch.  The incident occurred after a vessel crew change had been abandoned due to poor weather conditions for the transfer.  The CTV returned to port.  Poor weather conditions resulted in many passengers becoming seasick.

On arrival in port, the passengers disembarked the CTV via the personnel transfer pontoon.  One passenger was lagging behind the others and then made his way back on to the vessel (to retrieve a personal bag) without alerting the vessel crew.  At this point, the CTV crewman had already opened a deck hatch to retrieve equipment from below decks and was stood below deck with his head protruding through the hatch opening at deck/foot level.

After speaking to the crewman in relation to the bag he had left on the CTV, the passenger attempted to gain access to the vessel cabin via the walkway in which the hatch was open.  This action had the potential to injure both the CTV crewman and the passenger.  The passenger was prevented from doing so by the site representative, who thus prevented injury to two people.

What went wrong?  What were the causes?

  • The passenger re-boarded the vessel without alerting, or seeking the permission of the vessel crew;
  • The passenger was suffering the effects of seasickness and was possibly less aware of potential hazards;
  • The chain on the pontoon between the vessel and the pontoon was not replaced following disembarkation of passengers and site representative boarding;
  • There was no physical barrier for the open hatch – site personnel providing barrier/lookout;
  • Due to short notice and early hour of the day for the crew change, the passengers had not received a site induction but were provided with a site ‘chaperone’ and should have received a vessel induction.

What lessons were learned?

  • Barriers should be in place around open hatches;
  • Where possible, hatches should be opened when only vessel crew are onboard;
  • All persons onboard should be informed when hatches are opened;
  • Development of procedure for management of opening hatches to add to vessel SMS;
  • There should be clear site and CTV induction stating that permission is to be sought before boarding a CTV;
  • Physical barrier (gate) to be closed and bolted once all passengers have disembarked the CTV.