MAIB publishes report into dredge master’s crush to death

Cherry Sand being investigated. Credit: MAIB

On 28 February 2019, the master of grab hopper dredger Cherry Sand, owned by UK Dredging, was crushed between the dredger and the jetty after he fell while attempting to step ashore to assist berthing the vessel at Port Babcock Rosyth, UK, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) concluded in its report published at the end of May 2020 

The master had climbed over Cherry Sand’s bulwark and on to the rubbing band in readiness to step ashore as part of a self-mooring operation. The chief officer was still manoeuvring the dredger towards the berth when the master took a single step towards the quayside.  

Cherry Sand was too far away from its berth, as a result the master’s foot missed the quay, and his upper body struck the chains and quayside with force before he fell between the quay wall and the vessel. He was crushed by the moving dredger before slipping into the water. 

The master took the step towards the quay when Cherry Sand’s bow was about 1.5 m away from the berth. CCTV footage showed that he stepped out in a deliberate manner, apparently confident that he would be able to reach the quay. 

The master was wearing a life jacket and the ship’s crew were able to recover him from the water in about 10 minutes. The master was declared deceased on the quayside. The post-mortem examination report found that the master had sustained extensive injuries consistent with crushing. 

The MAIB investigation concluded that the system of work employed for self-mooring Cherry Sand was inherently hazardous. This is due to the following reasons: Linesmen were not used, but no measures had been taken to avoid having to place a crew member ashore while the vessel was unmoored; UK Dredging’s generic risk assessment UKD/002 provided that crew could embark or disembark a vessel when it was not moored, providing that all safety precautions had been completed in accordance with the safe systems of work. 

CCTV footage from Port Babcock Rosyth indicated that Cherry Sand’s crew had adopted the practice of crew crossing from ship to quay, and vice versa, when the vessel was not close enough to moor and unmoor. It had been agreed between Babcock and UK Dredging that linesmen were not required, so none were in attendance. Also, no attempts were made to lasso shore-side bollards to pass spring lines, and finally, tugs were not used to hold the vessel while mooring lines were passed. In short, there was a marked difference between how the company imagined mooring operations were being conducted and actual practices on board. 

UK Dredging’s safety management system audits had not identified that Cherry Sand’s operational practices and the general safety culture on board were below the expected level. 

Following the accident, UK Dredging has stopped its crew stepping ashore to self-moor and has reviewed its procedures for mooring and toolbox talks. In addition, the vessel inspection guidance has been revised to provide greater focus on compliance with procedures. 

A recommendation has been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to amend the Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seafarers to provide guidance on mooring and unmooring operations, and when it is permissible for vessels to self-moor. A recommendation has also been made to UK Dredging’s owner, Associated British Ports (ABP), aimed at ensuring a common approach to safety and the application of company procedures across the UK Dredging fleet. ABP has introduced an auditing scheme for UK Dredging as a result.