Preventing stevedore deaths on board ships needs greater cooperation

At least 16 dock workers and 12 seafarers died in confined-space related accidents between January 2018 and May 2019, the International Transport Federation (ITF) has reported, stating that preventing stevedore injuries and deaths was becoming ever more urgent

The federation said that the problem had been exacerbated by a growing diversity of seafarer nationalities on board who had limited foreign-language skills, plus limited labour skills among local dockers.

The ITF said that the issue was often encountered in emerging countries where personnel were hired by private enterprises. or where applying health and safety policies in practice was challenging.

“Responsible shipowners – particularly those calling at smaller breakbulk destinations with limited onshore handing equipment – are regularly confronted by unprotected dockers with limited training expected to perform rigorous manual tasks during both geared and non-geared loading and unloading operations. The stevedores are not only at risk. Quite often it’s the seafarers on board who are most at risk of injury due to a mistake by a stevedore,” according to partner Erik Green of Danish marine safety experts Green-Jakobsen.

China Navigation Company, a member of the Swire Group, has embarked on a project to address these issues. “It was only after the exploratory phase engaging with fleet management, officers, ratings, harbour masters, port authorities and stevedores themselves at multiple locations that the complexities emerged,” said Green. The project is now entering into implementation phase, and is one of the first of its kind to be initiated proactively by a shipowner rather than a port authority or terminal operator.