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A joint investigation carried out by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and the Marshall Islands Maritime Authorities has found that a lack of preparedness, communication and supervision; and the incorrect use of the mooring winch brake were contributing factors in the death of a crew member on board the Marshall Islands flagged ship Probo Bear on 10 April 2006.

At 2150 on 10 April, the crew on board the products/ oil/bulk/ore carrier Probo Bear prepared to shift the ship forward, to position its number seven cargo hold under the Groote Eylandt jetty fixed loading boom. The weather was fine with light winds and there was little tidal flow.

At 2212, the master ordered the forward spring lines and stern lines be slackened, and to commence heaving on the head lines and aft spring lines. The main engine was run slow ahead for about ten seconds to start the ship moving.

During the shift ship operation one of the forward spring lines became taut. The master ordered the forward mooring crew to slacken the taut spring line, but it did not slacken off. The master ordered dead slow astern on the main engine to halt the ships movement. Just under a minute later, when he noted that the taut spring line had suddenly become slack, the master ordered the engine stopped.

A short time later, the crew member operating the number two forward spring line was found lying on the forecastle deck to the port side of the spring winch platform. He had severe head injuries and his safety helmet had been split in half. None of the crew on the forecastle had seen what had happened, but they had heard what sounded like a mooring line moving swiftly through the air.

A medically trained crew member was sent to the forecastle while the master informed the local authorities. The crew completed the mooring operations and paramedics boarded the ship when it was all fast at 2300. The crew member was confirmed dead at 2304.

The ship completed its cargo operations without further incident and sailed on 12 April 2006.

The investigation report makes recommendations to ship managers and masters in relation to the need for preparedness, communication and supervision during mooring operations.

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Last update 01 April 2011