Confined Space Fatalities on Bulk Cargo Vessels

Published: Thursday, December 20, 2018 - 14:33

In June 2018, International Bulk Terminals Association presented a proposal to IMO Sub-committee on Carriage of Cargoes & Containers on safe handling of solid bulk cargoes. It included proposed amendments to the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code of Practice.  As part of the supporting case, Annex 1 analysed 71 serious shipboard confined space accidents reported by IBTA (Jan 1999 - Apr 2018).  These 71 incidents had led to 106 fatalities.

The details in the annex make for difficult reading because of the high casualty rate and a sense that the maritime industry is not able to improve.  They show that:

  • by far the most likely killer in a confined space is asphyxiation and carbon monoxide poisoning
  • the same pattern that is still being seen whereby the same confined space proves fatal to more than one person, often due to understandable but ill-advised/unplanned rescue attempts
  • it is both crew and shore based workers that are at risk


Bulk Incidents 1

It also becomes clear that risk exists beyond ships' holds and that means of access/egress are potentially higher risk areas.  Safe access/egress is a vital part of risk assessment and management.  Almost 93% of the fatalities in this report were in hold access ways and ladders.  Ports should take note that more incidents took place in port than at sea and that unloading operations gave rise to many more fatalities than loading and during a voyage.   

Bulk 2

In the report, the most likely cargo was in Group B including Coal (20), Petcoke (3), DRI (3), Wood Products - general (15), Wood Pellet (6), Wood Chip (2), Steel Turnings (2), Copper Conc. (2), Zinc Conc (2), Zinc Skimmings (1), Seed Cake (1), Palm Kernel (1).  There was also variation in ship size, with no one size dominating.

Bulk 3

See the attached file for further information.


Analysis-of-Shipboard-Confined-Space-Accidents-1999-April-2018- PDF (148.78 KB) Download (148.78 KB)