Real Life Incident: Crew Washed Overboard and Not Recovered

An accident on board a ship during rough weather threw the crew overboard while they were attempting to secure the nylon mooring lines at the aft deck. Despite the best efforts of the vessel and search and rescue (SAR) services, the two men could not be recovered.


As the vessel encountered force 9 winds with a 6 meter head sea, it was discovered that nylon mooring lines on the aft deck were becoming unsecured. These lines represented a danger to the ship if they were to be washed overboard since nylon lines will sink and could entangle the propellor.

The plan was for two crew to access the aft deck, each wearing a lifejacket and a safety harness. One end of a fire-fighter’s lifeline was attached to the safety harness securing ring and the other secured to a handrail on the external stairway platforms. It was intended that any slack in the lifelines would be manually taken up by other crew positioned on these stairway platforms.

As the two crew began their work on the aft mooring deck a large wave was shipped, the force of which washed them overboard and caused the safety crew to release their grip on the lifelines. As the two crew were washed away, their lifelines parted.

Crew Washed


The same wave crossed the first deck stairway platform, forcing one crew member to the deck and causing another’s lifejacket to inflate. Despite the best efforts of the vessel and search and rescue (SAR) services, the two men could not be recovered.

Lessons learned

1 No heavy weather checklist was available and none was required to be completed as part of the vessel’s safety management system.
2 Previous occurrences of the aft mooring ropes coming loose had not been formally recorded, possibly because there had been no adverse consequences.
3 The loose nylon mooring rope presented a significant risk of it fouling the vessel’s propeller owing to its inherent tendency to sink.
4 The need for a designated enclosed means for stowing the coiled aft mooring ropes had not been recognised.
5 The vessel’s safety management system contained no detailed requirements with regard to sending crew on deck in heavy weather.
6 The crew possibly underestimated the potential wave height that could have been expected in the prevailing weather conditions.
7 No designated lifelines were provided on board for use in sending crew on deck in heavy weather.
8 The crew overestimated the strength of the fire-fighter’s lifelines and their ability to manually control their loading in the prevailing conditions.
9 The strength of the fire-fighter’s lifelines was insufficient to withstand the loading exerted on them by the large wave that washed the crew members overboard.
10 Although both men had been wearing lifejackets that had inflated, neither was able to survive their exposure to the heavy weather conditions.

Reference & Image Credit: nautinst

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  1. While reading this report and the failures. My immediate reaction at the top of the list was a lack of good seamanship. Well in advance of bad weather- lines should be stowed below. Lines should only be left on deck if the weather is going to be moderate enough- Force 9 – lines should have been below. This concept was standard practice when I started to sea. These practices were passed on to the junior mates by the senior mates and the Master. Even in a short sea shipping trade, if the weather looked bad- lines below.

  2. This was a bad case of negligence, and d capt was supposedly head of safety training offshore. If this is the vessel i think it is.

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