Real Life Accident: Crew Member Falls Overboard, Loses Life

After unloading containers from a general cargo vessel, crew prepared the decks and holds for a new cargo. One task was to move the hatch covers forward; a crew member operated the ship’s crane to move the hatch while two other crew guided the hatch with securing lines on each side.

The crew member guiding the hatch on the starboard side was blocked by the vessel’s heavy lift spreader stored on deck, so he had to climb the spreader in order to continue his pace forward. At some point while on the spreader he lost his balance and fell overboard between the ship and the dock.


An officer nearby heard the splash and rushed to the scene. With the help of other crew, the officer was able to recover the fallen crew onto the quay but the victim was unconscious. The victim was taken to hospital but died of his injuries later that day.

It is not known how the crew member lost his balance, but after the accident it was found that his shoes and coveralls were in very poor condition. At the time of the accident the victim was not wearing a safety harness, life vest or helmet.

Lessons learned

  • Personal protective equipment such as boots should always be in good order for proper support, protection and traction.
  • When working on deck a safety helmet should always be worn.
  • The crew considered moving the hatch covers a routine job. As such, they did not discuss arrangements and possible risks prior to moving the hatch cover on the morning of the accident.
  • The spreader had an uneven surface and was without fall protection. It was probably slippery due to the morning dew; it had no anti-slip paint applied as it was not intended to be walked upon


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