A report highlighting poor practice by shore workers whilst removing a gangway from the ship.
What the Reporter told us:
Recently, whilst in port on a cruise, the gangway was installed and removed by a road crane managed by the port. Just before the ship sailed, three personnel, (a crane driver and two stevedores), removed the gangway using the crane. I was on a balcony about four decks above the quay and alongside the crane. I have no professional maritime experience, but in the past I have managed heavy mechanical engineering operations, including crane operations. There was no apparent haste, but the two stevedores took a number of chances that I thought were avoidable:
• They were not wearing hard hats, and their heads were at times very close to the crane’s heavy metal hook.
• The stevedore gave hand signals to the crane driver with very slight finger movements. I am unsure whether he was using a local system of signals, but the system that I am familiar with involves unambiguous signals using the whole arm.
• One of the stevedores walked under the load and briefly placed his hands under the load when positioning timbers, putting himself at risk if the load were to descend unexpectedly.
These were easily avoidable risks that could have been eliminated by the use of hard hats, clearer signals and staying out of reach of the suspended load. The risks were very small, but the consequences, if an accident did occur, could be serious.
CHIRP wrote to the shipping company concerned highlighting the report – the company are in the luxury area of the cruise sector. Means of access to the vessel is generally the responsibility of the master (and company management by association), but this report falls squarely on the port. It was queried as to whether “poor practice by association” was acceptable? The Company responded, welcoming the report and passed it to their QHSE department for information. They also gave a port contact and CHIRP wrote to the port manager but received no response.
The Maritime Advisory Board commented upon two aspects of this report. Firstly, everybody is responsible for the safety of all personnel whether they are ship or shore based. The stevedores have a duty of care to look after one another and to intervene if somebody is doing something in an unsafe manner. This is sometimes termed Stop Work Authority and encouraging this promotes a higher safety culture. Similarly, anybody who observes an unsafe practice can intervene.
In this particular case, it was commented that the cruise industry generally does not subcontract this type of job and that responsibility usually lies with the port. It was also noted that some ports operate at lower safety standards. However, remedial action in these cases could be encouraged if perhaps the master were to “note protest”. Alternatively a letter from the company to the port may encourage safer behaviour.
It was finally noted that the Reporter’s comments are equally applicable to all lifting operations and that the Code of Safe Working Practices contains signalling procedures.