Port workers overwhelmed in ship hold

Wednesday 25 May 2022

(Newsroom) Workers overwhelmed, unable to move in ship’s hold – Amid a multi-pronged investigation into death and injury among port workers, a major waterfront employer has dodged liability for risking the lives of six of its workers, writes Rebecca Macfie.

The events at the Port of Napier on the night of 30 April 2018 might read like a slapstick farce, if not for the potentially fatal consequences for the six workers involved. Thanks only to sheer dumb luck, no-one died.

Hold 4 of the ship was half full of the Gisborne logs. Loading of this part of the ship was to continue at Napier. One worker would be operating a digger in the hold, using his machine to pack the logs tightly. Other workers had tasks on the wharf, including operating a crane to lift logs into the hold.

The danger to workers operating in enclosed spaces such as ships’ holds is widely recognised. In one disastrous incident only eight years earlier, two crew members had died within five minutes of entering the hold of a ship containing logs at Marsden Point. They had “lost useful consciousness owning to the combined effects of an oxygen depleted atmosphere and the likely presence of toxic gases, both consequences of the organic decomposition of logs in the closed cargo hold,” concluded the Transport Accident Investigation Commission in its investigation into the deaths of the two seamen, who were Myanmar and Korean nationals. “The dangers of the organic decomposition of logs and other organic cargoes in enclosed spaces are well known in the international maritime community.”

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Source: newsroom
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