What happened

On 15 December 2011, British Beech was berthed in Brisbane, Queensland, and its crew was taking on stores from a barge. During the return of a stores container from the ship to the barge, the container came free of its slings. It fell to the barge below, striking the master of the barge. The master was attended to by the barge crew and shore paramedics but he died from his injuries while being transported to hospital.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that the container had not been appropriately rigged on board the ship and the ship’s crew had not warned the barge crew of its return. The ship’s crew did not view the storing operation as dangerous and had, over time, removed identified safety barriers which would probably have prevented the accident. Compliance auditing processes had not identified and minimised such routine violations of the shipping company’s procedures.

The ATSB also found that the barge master had placed himself in a position of danger under the suspended load, and that the barge crew had not followed their company’s procedures for storing operations. The ATSB further found that the company had not adequately implemented compliance auditing or incident reporting schemes. As a result, the company had not acted on, or learnt from, previous less serious incidents.

What has been done to fix it

The method used for handling containers of this type in Brisbane has been altered so that the containers are top lifted and slings are no longer used.

The ship’s manager, BP Shipping, implemented a requirement to have the lifting point fixed and above the centre of gravity of loads. A thorough review of lifting and slinging processes, practices, procedures and equipment was conducted as well as a review of lifting and slinging job hazard analyses. A fleetwide review and training workshop for lifting and slinging was also completed.

The barge’s operator, Bowen Tug and Barge, undertook a review of its operations and work practices. On 1 July 2012, the company ceased ship storing operations and sold all associated vessels and equipment to another operator.

Safety message

Lifting operations, even when they are routine, involve inherent risks. Therefore, established procedures must be followed, reinforced and audited to ensure vigilance is maintained and complacency avoided. The basic precaution of standing well clear of suspended loads must always be taken.