Safety systems on Singapore-flagged vessels need reviewing; report

Investigators have called for a review of safety systems on Singapore-flagged ships after a crew member of cargo ship Rio De La Plata (IMO 9357951) was seriously injured in November 2020 when the container ship was preparing to leave the Port of Timaru. Three crew members had started unmooring at the front when #unique of them became entangle in a rope. The rope handler was dragged into the mooring winch, causing serious injuries to their hand and face.

An investigation by the state’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission found that the ship’s safety system had not been followed, that equipment should have been installed better, and that planning was insufficient. The ship’s safety plan identified mooring operations as a risk.

A standard precaution was to have a forward mooring party of four crew operating two winches. The investigation found that the mooring party was one crew member short.

The supervisor was also operating the winch, and each rope handler had to both handle the rope with one hand and signal to the supervisor/ winch operator with the other.

The TAIC said that if safety-focused thinking had been in place, rather than speed, they could have changed the unmooring plan to use just one winch at a time, enabling one worker to concentrate on handling the rope and another to monitor the rope handler and communicate safely with the winch operator.

The TAIC said that the crew member probably stepped too close to the mooring winch while engaged in communication with the winch operator and handling the rope simultaneously. This had served to reducing their awareness of their own safety.

The investigation found that “unmooring operations are just as dangerous as mooring operations and crew must ensure that there are always sufficient personnel available to carry out the operation safely,” adding that “equipment on board ships must be installed and operated as intended by the manufacturer. Any deviation from the manufacturer’s recommendation can increase the risk of serious injury.”

The TAIC recommended that the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) investigate and potentially review its audit processes to see if they could be further developed to identify weaknesses in the safety management system, and whether further practical improvements could be made.

The MPA has said that it was launching a preliminary inquiry.

“We have reviewed the company’s investigation report and are satisfied with its corrective / preventive actions to prevent a recurrence,” the MPA said.

The MPA said that the case would be published in an e-bulletin to the maritime industry to highlight the hazards associated with mooring operations. The MPA said that it had also shared the case with its flag state control department, to strengthen checks of mooring operations as part of the control and monitoring programme for Singapore-flagged ships.

2008-built, Singapore-flagged, 73,899 gt Rio De La Plata is owned by Moller Singapore AP Pte Ltd of Singapore, and is managed by Maersk AS of Copenhagen, Denmark. It is entered with Standard Club (European Division) on behalf of AP Moller Singapore Pte Ltd.