Jump to Content
Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 280KB]

At about 1836 on 26 March 1992, the Australian roll-on/roll-off vessel Searoad Mersey, was unberthing from Webb Dock, Melbourne to undertake its regular voyage from Melbourne to Devonport.

During the unberthing operation a stern rope, being retrieved very rapidly, swung and whipped as the eye of the rope neared the ship's side. The eye of the rope hit the Second Mate, who was leaning over the rail, and caught around his head and shoulders. The Second Mate was pulled over the ship's side and into the water. When he was recovered from the water, he was dead.

The Victorian Coroner, who held an inquest into the Second Mate's death on 4 and 5 April 1993, found the death had occurred from a combination of drowning and multiple injuries. In detailing the circumstances of the incident the Coroner stated, inter alia:

"The evidence is clear that it was the normal practice of the deceased to retrieve the mooring lines at maximum rate, even though he was aware of the danger of rope whip and had discussed the danger with colleagues. To this extent I am satisfied the deceased himself, contributed to the cause of death."


The Inspector concludes:

  1. The Second Mate was effectively lassoed by the eye of the mooring rope and thrown over and against the side of the ship.
  2. The accident was caused by the setting of the winches to maximum speed.
  3. Other factors relating to the accident involve the unmooring operation and include: (a) the position of the remote controls at the shipside bulwark (b) the position of the winch control switches within the remote control box, relative to the ropes they controlled (c) the failure of ship board staff to realise that the shipside controls allowed the speed of recovery to be controlled (d) the failure of the ship's crew to report the potential danger when it was known that the mooring ropes were prone to whip.
  4. The shipboard staff were not properly instructed in the operation of the shipside control valves, specifically the proportional speed control.
  5. Given the rapidity with which the accident happened, the Inspector is unable to conclude that: (a) the Integrated Rating assisting the Second Mate had time to operate the emergency stop (b) the misalignment of the blue winch contributed towards the accident.
  6. No responsibility can be attributed to the Integrated Rating on duty on the after mooring platform.

Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 280KB]
General details
Date: 27 March 1992 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: N/A  
Location:Melbourne Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Victoria  
Release date: 20 August 1993  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Serious Incident 
 Highest injury level: Fatal 
Vessel details
Vessel: Searoad Mersey 
Flag: Aus 
IMO: 8914831 
Type of Operation: Roll-on/roll-off cargo 
Damage to Vessel: Nil 
Departure point:Devonport, Tas
Departure time:N/A
Destination:Melbourne, Vic
Fatal: 1001
Share this page Provide feedback on this investigation
Last update 18 May 2016