Wednesday’s Workboat Association & British Tugowners Association Safety Forum at Seawork Connect detailed a real-world MOB situation.

Workboat Association & British Tugowners Association Safety Forum

Shaun Mansbridge, Safety Manager at Williams Shipping described a situation that occurred within Willliams’ pilot vessel fleet, fortunately with a happy outcome, that could have gone the other way.

A 13m pilot launch with two crewmembers aboard (skipper and deckhand), was delivering onsigners to a ship at the Nab Anchorage in the Solent, UK.

It was Autumn with fine weather and light seas and an estimated water temperature of 13-15 degrees Celsius.

The crew onsigning all safely ascended the pilot boarding ladder to the deck, and the deckhand started passing the suitcases up while the pilot boat’s skipper kept the vessel on station.

Unfortunately the deckhand somehow got a finger trapped in the handle of one of the bags, that the onsigned crew had hold of, and a drop of the pilot  boat due to swell caused the deckhand to be lifted clear of the deck and placed, momentarily dangling, in a danger area between the two hulls.

The skipper had no choice but reverse the pilot launch clear to lessen the mortal danger the deckhand was in, and the deckhand very quickly dropped from the suitcase int the water.

Although a non swimmer, the deckhand was in a lifejacket and appropriate safety clothing. The lifejacket auto inflated without any issues.

The tide soon removed the casualty clear of the ship, and the pilot launch skipper put the vessel into a safe place to perform a recovery and shut down the engines, and put out a Mayday.  As discussed elsewhere several times in this webinar, an accidental Man Overboard, in any circumstances is always a Mayday.

The sobering lesson of this experience was learnt when the skipper attempted to remove the MOB from the water using the ladder sling onboard the vessel.  The skipper, despite being fit and in his mid 30s, was unable to retrieve the 15 stone deckhand further than just clear of the waterline.

Soon the deckhand’s strength had been sapped to the extent that he was no longer able to aid in his own rescue, such as climbing a ladder.

The happy ending was provided when the ship they were servicing, saw their predicament and launched its rescue craft with 2 crew aboard, one of whom was able to help the skipper pull the deckhand aboard.

The deckhand was warmed up in the wheelhouse and had a change of clothes in time for the arrival of the coastguard helicopter, which was able to evacuate him for treatment of a broken finger.

The immediate learning for the business in this case was to fit all vessels in the fleet with a davit and winch system rated to 250kgs, enough for the lightest possible crewmember to easily extract the heaviest possible crewmember from the water, and Shaun went on to say that davits were his big recommendation for all similar operators. A lesson so nearly learnt the hard way.

The two Associations have recently partnered on a poster campaign to provide an easily digestible heads-up on a few simple MOB dos and don’ts to workboat crews.

Tomorrow’s sessions at Seawork Connect include the ever popular MOD boats Programme Update, REGISTER HERE

By Jake Frith