A report into a fatal accident on a Svitzer tug in the UK has highlighted safety issues for tugs mooring at oil terminals
Safety risks to tug crew have again been raised in a report into a fatal accident in the UK.
The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has highlighted the deadly safety issues with seafarers accessing tugs in ports and terminals where there are no dedicated facilities.
This follows MAIB’s investigation into the fatal accident on Svitzer-operated tug Millgarth on 27 January 2019, when chief engineer Ian Webb fell into near-freezing water at an oil terminal near Liverpool, UK.
Mr Webb had released Millgarth’s mooring lines at Essar Oil’s Tranmere oil terminal at Birkenhead and was attempting to reboard the tug from the north oil stage fenders when he fell and died in the River Mersey.
In the accident report, MAIB highlighted how previously voiced concerns regarding safe access to and from Svitzer tugs at the Tranmere oil terminal, and in Liverpool, had not been properly acted upon.
MAIB highlighted these safety issues in the report. Its investigators discovered that accessing tugs via the oil stage fenders at the Tranmere oil terminal was a common practice and was extremely dangerous, particularly in poor weather conditions.
They found the lack of safe access to and from Svitzer tugs at the Tranmere oil terminal had been recognised for at least 14 years prior to this accident and had been raised at safety committee meetings and during company inspections many times prior to this accident.
MAIB discovered Svitzer UK and Essar did not formally identify and evaluate the shared risks associated with access to and from an unmoored tug or discuss how these could be mitigated.
Inspectors found the crew had not been fully prepared to deal with the emergency situation and were unfamiliar with using the tug’s man overboard rescue-sling.
In the report into the Millgarth accident, MAIB made recommendations to both Svitzer UK and Essar Oil UK to ensure thorough assessments of site-specific risks are conducted to produce an agreed method statement of work for all the locations where shared risks are identified.
MAIB recommended that Svitzer management attend man overboard drills and use man overboard recovery equipment.
Following a similar non-fatal accident on Svitzer Victory at Immingham Dock on 14 June 2019, MAIB issued an urgent safety recommendation to Svitzer concerning safe tug access and egress.
These concerns were voiced during an event in London in September that Tug Technology & Business attended.
Following on from the Millgarth and Svitzer Victory accidents, Svitzer has issued an interim safety flash to inform its global fleet of this accident and to take immediate preventative actions.
Svitzer has conducted a review of man overboard recovery equipment across its global fleet, and crews’ familiarity with the equipment including their conduct of man overboard drills in Europe. It has also completed a review of European vessel access.
Essar Oil UK has temporarily prohibited tugs from making fast at Tranmere oil stages until a new mooring system is implemented. It has also conducted a joint risk assessment with Svitzer UK and other tug companies using the Tranmere oil stages.
The UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has added the following to Merchant Shipping Instructions to Surveyors: “Where a record of equipment (MSF1102) is issued to a vessel, any conditions, limitations for exemptions or equivalences on that vessel should be stated in the comments section of the MSF1102.
“Where applicable, verification surveys should include verification of the conditions of the exemption/limitation, examination of fitness for purpose, and familiarity of crew to use the related equipment. This may include a drill in addition to functional tests.”
MCA also decided to conduct man overboard recovery drills on all tugs irrespective of tug manning levels.
Svitzer remains saddened at the death of Ian Webb following the tragic incident in Liverpool on 27 January 2019. We continue to liaise with Mr Webb’s family and colleagues, with a view to ensuring that they have all the necessary support they require at both this challenging time and into the future.
We are committed to our core principle that the safety of our crews is the foundation of everything we do. At Svitzer, we want everybody always to be safe and return safely from work. We continuously strive to prevent incidents from causing harm to any of our colleagues.
We have just received the MAIB’s report into this incident and will now take the time to read carefully through it. We are therefore not able to comment further at this point. Like the MAIB, Svitzer is committed to identifying all lessons that can be learned from this tragic incident and will take the necessary actions to ensure the continued highest possible standards in safety.