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Enclosed spaces safety drive call

Posted: May 12, 2015

Union asks UK government to lead new efforts to cut “appalling” death toll

Nautilus International is calling for the UK to lead a new and concerted drive to end the appalling litany of seafarer fatalities in enclosed spaces. You may remember we did a blog on this a few weeks ago. It can be found by clicking here.

The Union has written to shipping minister |John Hayes following an incident in which two seafarers died in a cargo hold of the Carisbrooke shipping general cargo vessel Sally Ann C in March.

Investigations into the incident – which took place off the coast of West Africa- are underway, but it is known that the chief office and chief engineer died after entering a hold where timber was stowed and the second officer had to be rescued after losing consciousness when he went to the aid of his colleagues.

In a letter to the minister, Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said the case followed a ‘very familiar pattern of one crew member collapsing in an oxygen deficient area, and two more being overcome after entering the space without personal protection equipment in an attempt to rescue their colleagues’.

Mr Dickson said there is evidence to show that more seafarers die or are injured in enclosed spaces than through any other on board work activity.

‘Changes in ship design and operation, the nature of cargoes, the increasing amounts of chemicals being carried, along with reduced manning levels and radical changes in crewing practices are all factors which have driven the increase in such accidents’ he added. 


He warned the minister that simply continuing to warn seafarers of the dangers is not sufficient, and he urged the UK to lead European and international efforts to develop fresh approaches to the issue.

Nautilus says mandatory training requirements are needed and IMO rules should ensure that all ships are equipped with oxygen to ensure crew can test the atmosphere in enclosed spaces.

‘Better consideration should be given during the design and build stages to address some of the inherent risks – and the arrangements for rescue in particular’ Mr Dickson added. ‘We believe that requirements for oxygen meters to be positioned at the entrance to enclosed spaces would reinforce to seafarers the potential risks that they face, as well as providing ready access to information about the state of such spaces’.


The Union is also calling for improvements to secure a much better standard of risk assessments – moving away from a generic assessment to one that addresses particular hazards or design features associated with each individual enclosed space.

‘The tragic accidents in the enclosed spaces have resulted in a spate of investigation reports and resulting recommendations, as well as a steady flow of material to reinforce the precautions that should be taken’ Mr Dickinson told the minister. ‘However, the continued death toll should surely tell us that something is wrong with this approach. I hope you can support our aim to deliver innovative thinking to address the situation and to find improved ways of tackling some of the fundamental problems. We really cannot afford to continue witnessing the shocking  scale of fatalities that blight the industry’.

Three dock workers died in the Belgian port of Antwerp last month after entering the hold of a Hong Kong flagged general cargo ship to unload coal.

International Transport Workers’ Federation president Paddy Crumlin commented “Antwerp is a port where health and safety is taken very seriously, and, like the three men’s trade unions, we are confident that a full investigation will take place into what happened and how any resulting lessons can be implemented”.

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