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High potential near miss: AB slipped over the side during mooring operations

What happened

During mooring operations, an Able Seaman (AB) jumped from the vessel to the quayside to receive the mooring ropes. In doing so he slipped over the bulwark and fell over the side into the sea from a height of 1.75m. At that time, the gap between the vessel and the quay was 0.5-0.6m.

While falling, he managed to grab the vessel fender with his hands, keeping the upper part of the body out of the water. The vessel Master had a direct line of sight to the incident; he immediately stopped the engines and manoeuvred the stern away from the quayside using the bow thruster. This prevented the AB from being crushed between the vessel and quayside as well as from being drawn into the propeller.

He was helped back onto deck by a colleague and after a check-up it was confirmed that he appeared to be unharmed. Nevertheless, he was sent to a medical facility on the same day for proper examination which verified his fitness for work.

What went wrong? What were the causes?

  • Procedures not followed: By jumping from the vessel to the quay, the crewman violated existing written procedures. All other persons present were aware that this practice was forbidden, and were aware of the possible consequences, but no one stopped him;
  • Shortcuts: The vessel Master did not ask the Port Authority for assistance due to alleged issues experienced in past, where this assistance was either not provided or was provided with a significant time delays. As a result, a shortcut was taken by the vessel crew, which resulted in the incident;
  • Routine acceptance of risk/complacency: It was concluded by the investigation team that the unsafe practice of jumping from the vessel to the quayside had developed over time without being confronted or stopped by management.

Lessons learnt

This was a high potential near miss incident which could have been avoided if assistance was requested by the vessel Master from onshore. This incident could easily have resulted in a fatality, and serves as another reminder that shortcuts and deviations from established procedures and safe working practices are not acceptable.

Members may wish to refer to the following incidents:

Safety Event

Published: 23 January 2018
Download: IMCA SF 02/18

Relevant life-saving rules:
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