BMA Investigation: Crew aboard Beluga Reefer Suffered Fatal Injuries

The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) has published a marine investigation report to draw lessons learned from two fatal injuries that took place on the afternoon of 30 June 2023, aboard the Bahamas-flagged refrigerated cargo vessel Beluga Reefer.

On the afternoon of 30 June 2023, Beluga Reefer was on passage from Durban to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and was making way during a period of adverse weather.

Four crew members were at the forward mooring station to secure mooring lines when the vessel was struck by a series of large waves, washing the four crew members off their feet, and propelling them into the ship’s structure and deck machinery.

Of the four crew members, two suffered fatal injuries, one sustained minor injuries and the other required emergency medical assistance ashore.

An investigation by the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) found the reasons of the incident.

As it is explained by BMA, on departure from Durban, the master requested that all deck machinery and lines be secured for sea due to adverse weather conditions being forecasted. Due to a lack of rest, the bosun reported the forecastle was secure but decided to leave the mooring lines with a plan to complete the task later that day.

Whilst the bosun and crew slept, conditions deteriorated but no measures were put in place to control access to the deck, BMA said.

When the bosun and crew returned to the deck, no-one was aware of their movements and they were found by chance by the chief officer who was on deck and exposed to the same risk whilst completing a routine task.

The conclusions of the BMA investigation were that the bosun and an able-bodied seafarer were killed and a further two seafarers suffered injuries when they were washed clear from the forward mooring station when a series of large waves engulfed the forecastle.

The report found that the deck team were on the forecastle to secure mooring lines and equipment which they had reported as completed on sailing – they had left the work unfinished in order to take overdue rest.

“The vessel was experiencing slamming into the building sea and swell and steps had been taken to mitigate but at no point had the officer of the watch or master considered using the Company’s heavy weather checklist or restricting access to deck.

“The chief officer missed an opportunity to discuss mitigating measures for the forecasted adverse conditions at a shipboard safety meeting the previous day,” BMA notes.

The BMA said in its report that the bosun’s misreporting that the forward mooring station was secure for sea when departing Durban was a situational violation.

“This decision – to leave securing the forward mooring station until after their rest period – was informed by fatigue, onset by the change in working patterns as the vessel worked along the coast,” the report said.

Acheon Akti Navigation has since enforced a programme of change with regards to “Stop-The -Job” interventions and risk management. It has also instructed its fleet to affix warning signs at the exits of accommodation blocks that entry to the weather deck during adverse weather is prohibited.

The BMA has recommended that the company conducts a full review of its onboard procedures with particular attention to casualty reporting, verifying that the vessel is prepared for sea, deck access and movement of personnel, task scheduling and communication.

The full BMA report can be found here.