Enclosed-space casualties remain in the maritime spotlight with a large number of deaths (of both ship and shore personnel) reported so far this year, according to the UK P&I Club.
Despite the shipping industry’s efforts to eliminate shortcomings, such as lack of training, targeting safer working practices, and re-iterating the definition of an enclosed space, casualties are still present.
“The dangers associated with enclosed spaces are well known in the shipping industry,” said David Nichol, UK P&I Club risk assessor and yet “the death toll remains at an alarming level”, he added on 3 September.
According to him part of the reason for the high number of casualties may lie in confusion as to what spaces are or may become dangerous, and how they are identified.
Among his suggestions to improve safer working practices are, for instance, “a uniform approach to explicitly labelling all enclosed spaces that have been identified in the safety management system”. He emphasised that there is currently no industry standard for warning notices that may be universally understood by the crew or onshore personnel, which needs to be addressed.
Improved levels of education and training are essential to become fully competent. Everyone involved “should be trained in enclosed-space hazard recognition, evaluation, control and elimination, and crew members continually trained in enclosed-space safety”, he said.
Additionally, carrying out risk assessments would help identify enclosed spaces on board and any potential hazards in those spaces.
However, none of this is possible without the support from shore management. “Drills and training should be properly planned and be used as an opportunity to assess the challenges of rescue from identified enclosed spaces on board, and the importance of raising the alarm when persons are found to be in difficulty,” said Nichol.
“A zero-tolerance culture to unplanned and unprepared entry into any enclosed space is needed”, and should be strictly enforced to avoid future incidents, Nichol added.
The club’s advice comes just after the recently launched joint concentrated inspection campaign on crew familiarisation for enclosed space entry initiated by port state control regimes such as the Paris Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) and Tokyo MoU. The aim is to ensure that effective procedures and measures are in place to safeguard seafarers when entering enclosed spaces and to check compliance with the applicable requirements of the SOLAS Convention. The campaign will last for three months, ending on 30 November, and the results of the inspections will be analysed to present findings to the governing bodies of the MoUs for submission to the International Maritime Organization.