Real Life Incident: Fatal Fall Overboard Between The Berth And The Vessel

In the early morning, a general cargo vessel came starboard side to the berth to load steel and project cargo. To prepare the holds for loading, the crew needed to remove the stored pontoons and place supports so that the tween decks could be positioned inside the hold later on.

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The supervising officer stood on a hatch coaming ladder to guide the operation using hand signals and portable VHF.

As the pontoon was positioned above the hatch coaming, the supervising officer instructed the crane operator to swing the pontoon to the left and then slowly lower it. A short time later the seaman near the gangway noticed someone had fallen overboard amidships, between the quay and the vessel. The seaman raised the alarm on his VHF, grabbed a lifebuoy and ran to the position where he presumed the victim – the supervising officer – had fallen into the water.

The victim remained afloat even though he was not wearing a lifejacket. The seaman who had rushed to help was unable to bring him to safety from the quay with a lifebuoy. The victim appeared to lose consciousness shortly afterwards. Using a rope ladder, a crew member climbed down and, with half of his body submerged in the water, attempted to get the victim into the lifebuoy. However, he soon had to cease his rescue attempt due to the cold.

A second attempt succeeded in placing the victim on to a stretcher and he was lifted out of the water by the shore crane. Unfortunately, he was later pronounced dead and the autopsy found that he had died as a result of internal bleeding.


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