A container feeder vessel had just berthed at a terminal for cargo operations and the seaman assigned to lower the gangway reported to the duty officer that the controls of the electrical winch motor were unreliable. Accordingly, the gangway was lowered manually by means of the winch handle and rigged for access.
With minimal manning, and the absence of a dedicated electrician, the chief engineer took it upon himself to attend to the problem, despite having been continuously engaged in manoeuvring and maintenance tasks over the previous 12 hours without rest.
Manual energise ship winch motor with extremely care
At around the time he completed the electrical fault-tracing and was ready to test the winch motor, the stevedores changed shift and there was also a change of watch at the gangway with a new seaman taking over.
While the new seaman was adjusting the gangway using the handle to allow the new shift to come aboard, the chief engineer arrived at the winch motor control stand, situated within a few metres from the seaman, and without thinking of the consequences, energised the motor. The sudden activation of the motor caused the handle to snatch violently from the seaman’s grip and strike his jaw from below with great force, throwing him on the deck. After administering first aid on board, the seaman was taken ashore to a hospital where multiple facial fractures were detected resulting in his repatriation home.
When working on ship electrical system be aware
Overwork and fatigue may have contributed to this incident, causing a momentary lapse of concentration on the part of the chief engineer. There have been many similar accidents when the lifeboat winch motor has been inadvertently energised with the manual handle engaged. These incidents once again highlight the importance of conducting a careful risk assessment and a tool-box meeting, especially when working to rectify faults under pressing circumstances.