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Early on the morning of 29 December 1993, the Australian offshore supply vessel Shelf Supporter was discharging a deck cargo of empty skips and a container to North Rankin A platform, 70 miles north-west of Dampier. The weather was fine with the wind from the south-west at 20 knots.

The Master was manoeuvring the vessel, maintaining position, from the after end of the bridge, looking out over the cargo deck.

Seas were breaking over the stern, but conditions were not such as to cause the cancellation of cargo operations.

While a skip was being hoisted to the platform the two-man deck watch aboard Shelf Supporter decided to re-spool a wire used to secure the cargo, onto the winch. While this wire was being released from a block, a sea broke over the stern. Despite a warning from the Master, one of the two men on deck was crushed between the vessel's own rubbish skip and an empty skip when it was moved by the seawater.


It is considered that:

  1. The sea conditions at the time of the incident were not such as to warrant the cancellation of cargo operations.
  2. There was no apparent reason why the AB should not have heard the warning made by the Master.
  3. The AB was apparently caught unawares by the forward movement of the skip.
  4. The decision to re-spool the port tugger wire, to prevent it from being damaged, was in accordance with good seamanship but, coupled with an apparent belief that the position immediately forward of the athwartships skip was a safe one, resulted in the AB being in such a position so as to be crushed between the two skips.
  5. The act of leaving the port tugger wire lying flaked along the deck, and not re-spooling it on the winch as soon as the first lift was clear, was not in accordance with good seamanship and the delay in re-spooling the wire resulted in the athwartships skip becoming exposed before action was taken.
  6. Athwartships stowage, particularly of empty skips and other forms of bin, is undesirable, due to their greater vulnerability to movement by seas breaking on board.
  7. All cargo operations should be fully discussed between the platform/rig manager and the supply vessel master and the order of operations agreed, before the vessel goes alongside.
  8. Although time may be at a premium, crane hooks should not be lowered to the supply vessel until such time as the crew on deck have signalled their readiness.

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