AMSA Monthly Safety lessons – What we learn from real-life at sea incidents

AMSA has launched a new series of ‘Real Life Incidents Safety Lessons’ learnt as the result of a marine incident investigation report.

Every month AMSA will share an overview of a domestic commercial vessel incident investigation and the safety lesson that can be learned in order to prevent a similar incident occurring on board your vessel.

You’ll find more on future monthly ‘Safety Lessons’ here.

 Safety Lesson #1 – November 2021

A pilot was seriously injured after losing balance when a large wave impacted the vessel at the same time as they stood up to remove their lifejacket while in the cabin.

 What happened?

At 0055, after retrieving the pilot and other personnel from a tanker, the Class 2 domestic commercial vessel commenced its voyage back to the marina. Shortly afterwards, at approximately 0100, as the vessel was leaving the lee of the tanker it was hit by a large wave. The Master did not see it coming due to the low light conditions at night.

Just as the wave impacted hard with the vessel, the pilot had stood temporarily to remove their lifejacket. At the time of the incident the wind was 23-28 knots with a 1.5 metre swell.

This resulted in the pilot losing their footing and falling, becoming injured. First aid was applied on board whilst the vessel proceeded to the marina at slow speed. On arrival at 0400 the pilot was assisted by ambulance medics and transported to hospital.

Investigation findings

The investigation identified the following as contributory factors:

  • As the vessel cleared the lee from the larger vessel where the sea state was calm, it encountered a large wave which caused a sudden, large pitching movement.
  • Restricted visibility during night-time prevented the Master from being able to see the large wave approaching the vessel and reduce speed before impact.
  • The unprepared pilot, who had momentarily stood up to remove their lifejacket, was not adequately secured with at least three points of contact to prevent them from losing their balance following sudden movement of the vessel.
  • The weather conditions contributed to the incident.
  • •Although, the Master planned for the weather conditions and sea state, at the time of the incident the vessel was not protected by the lee of the larger vessel.

 Safety Lesson

Where sea state and weather present hazardous conditions, passengers need to be advised to maintain three points of solid contact with the vessel whenever possible.

When operating in inclement weather, consider the placement of passengers and other weights.

Following this incident, the company amended its procedures to instruct the Master to hold position in the lee of the larger vessel until a verbal confirmation is given to all passengers and crew that they are ready for the voyage.