This incident took place whilst a workboat was conducting a crew transfer to a cargo barge during the hours of darkness. The wind speed was 16 knots, sea state 0.7m – 1.3m. These conditions were considered to be safe by the operator and within acceptable parameters for an operation of this nature.
The vessel approached the cargo barge and successfully transferred one person to the barge. Immediately after the first transfer was complete two waves hit the workboat. The first wave filled the workboat with water and the second caused it to capsize throwing the seven crew members in to the sea.
The alarm was raised as two crew members attempted to right the workboat by operating the manual handle to the self-righting gear, but were unsuccessful as the safety pin utilized to prevent activation during transportation, had not been removed. The other five crew members swam to a piece of polypropylene rope attached to the barges emergency towing gear. Of these five, three crew members drifted away after failing to hold on to the rope, one crew member died.
- Crew were not provided with appropriate PPE/LSA including personal locator beacon, lifejackets, waterproof radios and work suits (as appropriate to local climate).
- Emergency response procedures were not adequate. Drills and exercises for man overboard and sea survival had not been carried out.
- It is preferable for operations of this nature to be conducted during daylight hours. If personnel transfers have to be performed during hours of darkness, sufficient illumination should be provided.
- Planned maintenance systems should include checks/inspections of safety and emergency equipment.
IMCA Safety Flash 08/11