Skip to content

Three man overboard fatalities

The Marine Safety Investigation Unit of Transport Malta has published two reports outlining three man overboard fatalities.

Incident 1 – two men washed overboard whilst working on deck in high seas

See full report here.  A bulk carrier was steaming at reduced speed due to both engine issues and adverse weather conditions. It was noticed that mooring ropes stored on the poop deck had scattered, while some of them were hanging over the vessel’s guard rails due to the inclement weather.  A party of crew members endeavoured to secure these mooring ropes. Two crew members were assisting from the poop deck, while the rest were handling the ropes on the first deck.  At one point, two consecutive large waves washed over the poop deck, causing the two crew members working on the poop deck to fall overboard.  A search for the two crew members was carried out, involving two Search & Rescue helicopters from Norway’s coast guard; however, the operation was unsuccessful.

Neither crew member was secured to the vessel, nor were they wearing life jackets, at the time of the incident.  There were no inflatable life jackets on board the vessel. (IMCA italics for emphasis)

Incident 2 – Fatal Man overboard incident during rigging of a combination pilot ladder

See full report here.  The bosun on a bulk carrier fell into the sea and drowned while rigging a combination pilot ladder in the hours of darkness. Information available to the safety investigation indicated that the bosun was alone on the accommodation ladder’s lowest platform.  None of the crew members witnessed the events which led to the bosun falling off the ladder.  The report notes that it seems likely that the crew member fell into the water whilst lashing the accommodation ladder to the vertical pilot ladder. At the time of the accident, the crew member was not wearing a safety harness. It is very likely that he drowned because he had no lifejacket on. (IMCA italics for emphasis)

IMCA notes: These two dreadful and wholly avoidable incidents are included to illustrate the fact that a responsible and constructive attitude to safety is not something that can always be taken for granted  – be it the shipowner, the employer, the officers or the crew. If in doubt – STOP THE JOB.

IMCA Safety Flashes summarise key safety matters and incidents, allowing lessons to be more easily learnt for the benefit of all. The effectiveness of the IMCA Safety Flash system depends on Members sharing information and so avoiding repeat incidents. Please consider adding [email protected] to your internal distribution list for safety alerts or manually submitting information on incidents you consider may be relevant. All information is anonymised or sanitised, as appropriate.

IMCA’s store terms and conditions ( apply to all downloads from IMCA’s website, including this document.

IMCA makes every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the documents it publishes, but IMCA shall not be liable for any guidance and/or recommendation and/or statement herein contained. The information contained in this document does not fulfil or replace any individual’s or Member's legal, regulatory or other duties or obligations in respect of their operations. Individuals and Members remain solely responsible for the safe, lawful and proper conduct of their operations.