A ladder rigged upside down contributed to the death by drowning of a crewman on a Japanese bulker in Australia, a safety report has revealed.
The accident on the 251,000–dwt Hyundai Dangjin (built 2012) happened on 10 July 2015 when it was in the final stages of loading its cargo of iron ore at Port Walcott.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said the chief mate had asked the second mate to read the midships draught on the ship’s port side.
The able seaman (AB) on duty offered to go down the ladder instead of the second mate, who was a large and heavy man, it added. When he was near the bottom of the ladder, about seven metres below the ship’s deck, he called out to the AB for help and said he was having difficulty. When the AB checked, he saw the second mate struggling to hold on to the ladder. As the AB looked around for a rope to throw down, the second mate fell into the water. The AB entered the water himself in a vain rescue attempt that led to him developing symptoms of hypothermia. The mate was eventually brought on board but no signs of life were detected.
ATSB said the rope ladder had been rigged upside down.
“With their wrong side up, the ladder steps (folded aluminium) did not provide a flat surface to stand on comfortably. Further, the steps were not good handholds”, it found.
“While the AB was standing by on deck, man overboard response measures (such as a lifebuoy with light and line near the ladder) were not in place. Fortunately, his well-intentioned but impulsive descent of the ladder in an attempt to rescue the second mate did not result in another casualty.”
“In many cases, little attention is paid to planning apparently straightforward tasks, such as using a rope ladder. This can lead to important factors and relevant considerations not being taken into account, including the experience and physical ability of persons undertaking the task.”
The bulker is managed by Toyo Sangyo of Japan.