Thursday, November 24, 2016

Death Continually Stalks Those Who Work at the Coal Face of the Shipping Industry

For Many Unfortunates in Logistics, Freight Forwarding Means Literally Shifting Cargo
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – As the end of the year approaches and shipping agencies and freight forwarding offices around the globe prepare for Christmas celebrations, it might just be time to pause for thought as to what happens out there at the front line, where for countless generations men, and latterly ever more women, have faced danger in ensuring goods were delivered to every corner of the earth. Whether hauling cargo along icy highways or barren desert roads that main artery of trade, the water, still presents some of the principal, potentially fatal hazards, as some very recent cases demonstrate.

In the past week alone we hear that two men are now dead as a result of an accident when they were engaged in repairs to their vessel's life boats. The heavy lift ship Palmerton operated by Harren & Partner, Bremen under the Antiguan and Barbudan flag, was transiting from Zeebrugge to France on November 22 when one of the boats slipped, striking the pair. One of the men went overboard whilst his colleague was crushed. The two men, both Ukrainian were transferred by helicopter to a hospital in Bruges but regrettably neither was able to be saved.

Accidents of course don’t just happen to ships at sea, on the same day of the Palmerton accident the mysterious case of the 56 year old captain of the Andrea Corina, a Polish flagged dry bulk barge, who has disappeared whilst his vessel was moored in the calm waters of the Mittellandkanal near Sehnde-Bolzum, Germany. On that morning, whilst it is believed that he was inspecting the vessel, it is feared he may have fallen overboard, prompting a search by divers supported by a vessel carrying sonar equipment.

The dangers extend wherever ships are working, or indeed, worked upon. In still yet another case on November 22, and again in Germany, there was a tragic accident in the Hamburg shipyard of Blohm and Voss whilst the Fred Olsen cruise vessel Black Watch was undergoing a refit, including an overhaul of propeller and rudder and installation of a new generator. An enquiry is already under way to establish how a massive steel bar managed to fall, killing one man outright and very seriously injuring his colleague.

As can be seen by such deaths in this single day in a relatively small part of the world, the dangers to seamen persist even at a time when health and safety matters are taken far more seriously than ever before. Perhaps not seriously enough by some unfortunately. An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) enquiry this week into the death of 39 year old Andrew Kelly, who perished whilst handling cargo containers between the Atwood Osprey oil rig and the anchor handling tug supply vessel Skandi Pacific around 100 miles north west of Karartha, Western Australia in July 2015, decided slack safety regulations were, at least in part to blame.

Mr Kelly left behind behind a wife and four children, all under the age of ten, including a six-month-old baby after he was killed by two large waves washing over the open stern of his vessel, crushing him between the moving containers. The enquiry decided that insufficient procedures were in place to secure cargo in the prevailing conditions with no formal assessments and protocols in place. This meant that, as is so often the case in the field, it was the judgement of those on the spot to informally assess the risks and decide when to cease work.

Operators of the Skandi Pacific, Norwegiian headquartered DOF Management worked with the ATSB to discover why Andrew Kelly died and has put in place measures which will change the way their open stern vessels operate in the future. A company statement today said:

”Andrew Kelly and his family are never out of our thoughts; his loss is felt keenly. The DOF Group is a responsible and transparent organisation our belief is that no-one should lose their life at work so we have taken every step to ensure a situation like this is never repeated on any vessel, worldwide. Our highest priority is the safety of our people and we continue to work with industry, industry bodies and government agencies to ensure the highest standard of safety management and systems.”

Nothing will ever eliminate the risks to those who labour at the cutting edge of the shipping industry, it is the job of everyone concerned however to ensure everything that can be done to eliminate such needless fatalities, and indeed injuries, has been done. It might also be the time of year to also reflect on the fact that in this business of logistics, there are some who will always have to put their lives on the line at some point to support the delivery of vital supplies to others across the world.

Photo: The forlorn sight of the continuing sonar and dive search for the ships master missing and thought to have drowned in the Mittellandkanal.