Report: Alcohol Consumption Involved in Deckhand Drowning
The U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch has released it's report into the November 2017 death of a deckhand on the fishing vessel Illustris.
He had spent the afternoon and evening ashore and had just returned to the vessel. His fall was not witnessed, and he was not missed until the following day. The postmortem examination report indicated a probable cause of death as drowning, with a contribution of acute alcohol toxicity.
At the time of the accident, Illustris was berthed outboard of fishing vessel Northern Quest, which was secured alongside at Royal Quays Marina in North Shields. The deck lights of both vessels were switched on. The wind was light and the weather was clear and dry, although the decks and guardrails of both vessels were damp from earlier showers. The air temperature was 3-4°C, and the sea temperature was approximately 10°C.
To access Illustris, the crew needed to board Northern Quest from the quayside either by climbing down a vertical ladder set into the quay wall or stepping across the gap between the quay wall and the vessel depending on the height of tide, and then climbing over the vessel’s shelter deck guardrails. To cross from Northern Quest to Illustris, the crew had to climb over Northern Quest’s guardrails, step across the gap between the two vessels and then climb up the steps set into Illustris’s side and over its shelter deck guardrails.
The investigation report cited the following safety lessons:
• the deckhand’s high levels of alcohol are likely to have adversely affected his risk perception, reaction time and co-ordination, which might have caused him fall. The deckhand’s fall was not witnessed which made a prompt rescue impossible
• living on board a fishing vessel carries additional risks with alcohol consumption
• while limited alcohol consumption may be acceptable in port, there is a need to ensure that it does not compromise the safety of those crew who need to return to their vessels after an evening ashore.
Illustris’ risk assessment for boarding and leaving the vessel did not include a control measure requiring the wearing of a PFD. The listed control measures did include “Try not to disembark alone.” However, the discretionary nature of the measure and its restrictive scope in applying only to leaving the vessel and not requiring a nominated crewman to monitor individuals boarding or leaving the vessel, rendered it of limited value, states the report.
Illustris’ owner, Sagittarius Fishing, has been recommended to take account of the hazards associated with crew members proceeding to and from shore for recreational activities and to establish a formal drug and alcohol policy.