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At about 2117 on 24 November 2008, while preparing the ship to sail from Townsville, Queensland, a crew member on board the Maltese registered container ship Spirit of Esperance was injured after falling about 4 m during an operation to stow the number three cargo crane hook.

Immediately following the fall, the crew member was treated by the ship's crew and, shortly afterwards, by ambulance officers. He was then transferred to hospital where he later died as a result of the injuries he had sustained.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation found that the design of the cargo crane hook cradle did not allow for unassisted stowage of the hook when the ship had a stern trim in excess of 2.1 m; there were no guidelines or procedures available on board the ship to assist the crew with the task of stowing the cargo crane hook when it was misaligned from its cradle; the crane operations job safety analysis did not identify the risks associated with stowing the hook in these circumstances; and when the ship's stern trim was in excess of 2.1 m, the ship's crew routinely violated the working aloft procedure by climbing the emergency ladder adjacent to the hook's cradle without a permit or appropriate personal protective equipment.

The investigation also found that the deceased crew member was probably under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident and this may have adversely affected his reaction time, balance and cognitive ability. The ATSB acknowledges the safety actions taken by ASP Ship Management to address these safety issues and, in addition, has issued three safety advisory notices.

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