The vessel encountered a heavy swell, which caused green seas on the bow deck, but the following day the swell reduced, there were no seas on deck, only sea spray. The master had a meeting with the chief officer, they discussed the improvement in the sea conditions and they decided that it was a good opportunity to inspect the forward part of the vessel to verify if there was any damage. At that moment in time the weather conditions wind NW 5 with N’ly swell. The chief officer together with the Bosun and one AB, wearing all necessary PPE and having established communication with the Bridge, were ready to go forward. The master was on the bridge. The team arrived at the forward of the vessel and entered into the Bosun Store to inspect the area. The chief officer reported to the master that the store was dry and that he and the other crewmembers intended to approach the windlasses in order to check the condition of anchors’ lashings. At that moment the vessel started to increase her rolling due to synchronization with the swell. The team was close to the starboard windlass when a wave came on deck and dragged the three seamen away, they in turn collided with deck fittings. When the bow deck was clear of water, the team returned back to the accommodation where the chief officer was transferred to the ship’s hospital in order to be examined for possible injuries.
- Despite the weather conditions not being prohibitive for the team, there wasn’t any strong evidence for the need to inspect the forecastle. The reasons for undertaking such tasks should be properly evalu – ated. A risk assessment should be performed and all the precautions should be taken (even a major alteration of the course). The period of exposure should be continuously evaluated and restricted to only important tasks.
- If the crew should be exposed to high adverse weather condition to perform tasks crucial for the safety of the vessel/ the crew/ the environment, the alteration of the course and adjustment of the speed should be taken into consideration in order to minimize the risk. In addition, the crew should be fastened to strong points and backup personnel to be close to them and provide all the required support.
- The master should establish watches to monitor not only the exposed personnel but also the surrounding area for abnormal sea condition.
- In addition to portable communication, establish backup com munication ready for immediate use (such us public address). Ensure all of the crew on deck are aware of it.
Action by the company: The report was circulated to the Fleet reminding them that when members of the crew are exposed on deck during adverse weather conditions, the Company’s SMS provides procedures for such situations and a relative risk assessment scenario is provided for the use of each vessel through company’s risk assessment library.
During heavy weather, and particularly with seas breaking over the deck, there must be a presumption of damage to the vessel until proved to the contrary by visual inspection. The fitting of remote bilge sensors to forecastle stores cannot be relied upon to indicate flooding and in any case condensation/rolling drainage into bilge wells often gives false positive flooding warning. Once these have been activated, even if a false alarm they then give no further warning of continuous flooding. Recommended practice on prolonged voyages into heavy weather is to daily turn the vessel away from the sea and muster a forward inspection party to sound forward spaces, check the security of anchors, lashings, closed forward space ventilators and inspect the forecastle store. Only when personally and visually proved, there is no damage to the ship can the voyage be continued, in the knowledge the vessel is being operated within safe parameters with condition and speed matched to the prevailing weather conditions.
There are many considerations to be taken into account when mitigating the exposure to risk. When slowing the ship down to gain access, give sufficient time for the vessel to settle at the new speed and assess the new rolling motion. When turning the ship around at a set time every day, allow the ship to settle in the new rolling motion for 10 minutes before anyone goes on deck.
On a ship with no Flying Bridge walkway, under the Loadline rules, the ship must have lifeline wires through stanchions on each side of the ship, it is good practice to use double clip-on harnesses, allowing the seafarers to clip ahead of the strong point before disconnecting (just as the good practice when mountaineering).