Poor risk analysis for stuck anchor results in fatality

Despite a chief mate voicing concerns, a master insisted on dangerous manoeuvres to free an anchor stuck in a hawsepipe. It cost the crew member sent into the hawsepipe his life. The Nautical Institute discusses the accident in its latest Mars Report and stresses not to improvise and analyse all risks and benefits of any operation.

The Nautical Institute gathers reports of maritime accidents and near-misses. It then publishes these so-called Mars Reports (anonymously) to prevent other accidents from happening. A summary of this incident:

A bulk carrier in ballast weighed the port anchor and departed the anchorage for a sea passage. As the anchor came into view, it was discovered that the flukes were not positioned properly. Heaving was stopped, but not before one of the flukes entered the hawsepipe and became stuck. The anchor was secured in that position and the vessel left the anchorage for the sea passage.

The next day work started on trying to free and reposition the anchor. Several attempts were made to free it by lowering and heaving the anchor, but without success. Next, under the master’s instructions and over the objections of the chief mate, a crew member was tasked to go over the side on a rope ladder while the vessel continued to make way.

He was instructed to pass a mooring rope over the crown of the anchor, with a view to using the winches to pull the anchor free. This method also proved unsuccessful.

The next day, a support was welded inside the hawsepipe so that a hydraulic jack could be used to move the chain in the hope of dislodging the anchor fluke. A crew member entered the hawsepipe to position the hydraulic jack against the anchor chain and started operating the jack to move the anchor chain. Suddenly, the anchor chain moved with a jerk and pinned the man against the wall of the hawsepipe.

The victim was retrieved from the hawsepipe and found motionless. First aid was administered, but the victim could not be revived. The vessel deviated from its passage in order to disembark the victim’s body.

Also read: ‘Questionable decisions’ during ship-to-ship transfer end in tragedy

Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • The early plan of sending a crew member over the side at the bow while underway was a clear signal that improvisational and unsafe practices were being employed.
  • Stand your ground. In this case, the chief mate was not in agreement with the practices used and refused to participate. The master, uninhibited by the chief mate’s warnings, continued the various attempts that eventually cost the life of a crew member.
  • When a new challenge arises it is best to use cool heads to analyse all risks and benefits. In this instance, it would have been evident that sending a man over the side at the bow while underway or having someone enter the hawsepipe were dangerous acts that could not be justified.

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202104, that are part of Report Number 339. A selection of this Report has also been published in SWZ|Maritime’s February 2021 issue. The Nautical Institute compiles these reports to help prevent maritime accidents. That is why they are also published on SWZ|Maritime’s website.

More reports are needed to keep the scheme interesting and informative. All reports are read only by the Mars coordinator and are treated in the strictest confidence. To submit a report, please use the Mars report form.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk