Jump to Content



On 2 January 1998, the Bahamas flag geared bulk carrier Maersk Pomor was undergoing a Port State Control inspection, by a surveyor of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, at the port of Gladstone, Queensland.

As part of the inspection, the Surveyor requested that the engine of the free-fall lifeboat be started and the movement ahead and astern tested. The 3rd Engineer boarded the lifeboat, started the engine, operated it in the ahead and astern modes and, the test satisfactory, stopped the engine. The Surveyor then requested that the lifeboat's rudder be operated, to port and to starboard.

Standing on the lifeboat boarding platform, from where he could see into the lifeboat, the Surveyor observed the 3rd Engineer unsuccessfully try to turn a spoked wheel, aligned fore and aft adjacent to the coxswain's seat. The 3rd Engineer then restarted the lifeboat engine, after which he again tried to turn the spoked wheel, this time with success. However, instead of the rudder turning, the lifeboat was launched, the 3rd Engineer being thrown to the bottom boards of the lifeboat.

The ship's rescue boat was launched, the lifeboat retrieved and taken alongside the wharf, where the 3rd Engineer was transferred to an ambulance. At Gladstone Hospital it was ascertained the 3rd Engineer had suffered a crush fracture of the first lumbar vertebra and concussion.


These conclusions identify the factors contributing to the incident and should not be taken as apportioning either blame or liability. The main contributing factors are considered to be:

  1. The 3rd Engineer's lack of knowledge about the free-fall lifeboat controls.
  2. The 2nd Mate's and Electrical Engineer Officer's lack of knowledge about the free-fall lifeboat controls.
  3. The training regimen on board, in that it had not ensured that the three officers were fully conversant with the free-fall lifeboat controls.
  4. The labelling and instructions for the lifeboat release gear, although clear, were not in the language of the crew.
Share this page Comment