Near-miss: Man overboard

A company has reported a man overboard incident in which the person who fell overboard was recovered onboard uninjured within several minutes. The incident occurred when one wind turbine crew transfer vessel (CTV) went to assist another such vessel which had reported propulsion problems.

The master of the assisting vessel offered to transfer to the disabled vessel and attempt to resolve the propulsion problem. The two masters discussed how the transfer should take place, and agreed that the two vessels should dock bow to bow with their ‘push on’ fendering. The master of the disabled vessel, transferred to the assisting vessel without incident and took over the controls of the assisting vessel. The manoeuvre was then repeated but whilst the vessels were docking, the master of the assisting vessel slipped from the bow and fell into the sea.

His lifejacket inflated immediately and as he swam towards the other vessel, the master onboard carried out a man overboard recovery procedure and the casualty was recovered onboard uninjured within several minutes. The vessels then went alongside each other and the transfer was completed successfully. As the crew were subsequently unable to effect a repair, one vessel towed the other back to port.

The investigation noted the following, some of which was drawn from CCTV recordings from the forward facing camera onboard the assisting vessel:

  • Although the master of the disabled vessel reported his mechanical problems to the marine co-ordinator, neither master on either vessel discussed their subsequent intentions with the co-ordinator or the company office;
  • The initial approach of the assisting vessel to the disabled vessel as slow and measured and the vessels docked bow to bow with little movement, and the master of the assisting vessel was able to transfer safely;
  • The deck supervisor onboard the assisting vessel took station on the transfer platform on the vessel but was not wearing a lifejacket;
  • The master of the disabled vessel was wearing a lifejacket but the crotch straps were not correctly secured;
  • The assisting vessel moved clear to allow the master of the disabled vessel to take control of the vessel before it made a second approach. This approach was not completed before the master of assisting vessel (who was waiting to do just this) attempted to transfer across the bows, and although he was wearing a lifejacket, the crotch straps were not properly secured;
  • The recovery of the man overboard was very effective; he was only in the water for a few minutes;
  • The deck supervisor onboard the disabled vessel alerted the marine co-ordinator ashore of the situation and kept them informed of developments;
  • The deck supervisor onboard the assisting vessel responded quickly carrying out proper man overboard recovery procedures;
  • The master in command of the assisting vessel handled the situation well, manoeuvring the vessel to recover the man in the water before putting the engines to neutral and assisting the deck supervisor to bring the man aboard.

The conclusions drawn were as follows:

  • The initial mechanical problems onboard the disabled vessel were later investigated and rectified by a technician who found and replaced defective relays. It was possible that the crew of the vessel could have been talked through this process successfully if they had contacted support staff at the company office – and so avoided the man overboard incident;
  • Although the decision of the master of the assisting vessel to board the other vessel was done with good intentions, it was not a sound decision to leave his own vessel and to carry out vessel to vessel transfers to effect a repair;
  • Whilst the man overboard recovery was carried out in a very efficient and professional manner, it should be noted that both masters and one deck supervisor failed to follow correct procedures regarding the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE) – in this case, life jackets.