Starlight Rays tragedy assessed
Thursday, 14 June 2012 13:18
THE MAIB has released a report today on their investigation of the fatal accident to a crewman on board the fishing vessel Starlight Rays, which occurred 126nm NNE of Aberdeen on 25 August 2011. The report reveals the following: The engineer, Artis Sterkis, died of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the petrol engine-driven pumpís exhaust gas. Starlight Raysí fish hold was not ventilated and the CO was able to accumulate until it reached lethal levels. With no forced ventilation and limited natural ventilation the fish hold had the potential to become a dangerous enclosed space. The salvage pump would not prime, and it is likely that the engine ran for longer than the engineer anticipated while he attempted to make it draw suction. As the CO levels in the fish hold rose, the engineerís judgment and perception of the danger he was in was likely to have been affected. The crewman did not stop the pump being used in the fish room because he did not understand the dangers that were involved. It is difficult to understand how the skipper did not see the engineer and crewman on his CCTV monitor as they attempted to use the pump. All skippers need to be vigilant in order to identify when their crew are working dangerously. They must then take immediate action to stop the work and find a safer way of completing the task. The crew had not considered the risks of pumping out the bow thruster space. Hazardous tasks on board fishing vessels need to be effectively considered. Risk assessments, when properly used, should help crew identify and mitigate the hazards they face. Additionally, the most appropriate emergency response to potentially hazardous tasks needs to be assessed. It is clear that portable engine-driven pumps have their limitations, and introduce new hazards on board. The pump on Starlight Rays was deadly when used as a salvage pump, and would have been of little use as an emergency fire pump. Starlight Raysí crew did not have the skills or equipment to be able to rescue the engineer without additional help. They had to wait for Skandi Carlaís rescue team and the rescue helicopterís crew before the engineer could be lifted out and treated. Sadly, their attempts to help achieved nothing other than risk their own lives. Safety issues identified during the investigation which have been addressed or have not resulted in recommendations: 1. It is possible that when Artis Sterkis started the salvage pumpís engine he thought that the task would be done quickly and that the effect of the exhaust fumes would be minimal. If this was so, it would explain why he chose to use the pump inside the fish hold and why he did not open more hatches to increase the natural ventilation. 2. In order to prevent a false sense of security and avoid future tragedies, fishing vessel operators and the MCA must consider in detail the practicalities of how portable engine-driven pumps are to be used for both salvage and fire-fighting purposes. 3. Fishermen must be made more aware of the limitations of portable pumps and the potential dangers if they are used incorrectly. 4. The time it will take to ventilate a large space, such as a fish hold, to make it safe for entry, should not be underestimated. 5. The engineerís condition might have been stabilised by giving him air from a BA set or medical oxygen while arrangements were made to lift him out of the fish hold. As there was only one BA set, and the only oxygen cylinder was being used to treat the crewman, this was not possible. 6. The rescue partyís assessment, following the evacuation of the watchkeeper, that the atmosphere was safe because the oxygen levels were acceptable, was not correct. Dangerously high levels of CO remained in the fish hold. Oxygen levels alone cannot be used to confirm that an enclosed space is safe to enter. 7. This case demonstrates the flaws in the MCAís policy of trusting fishing vessel owners to rectify deficiencies without surveyors checking that the work has been completed satisfactorily. 8. This accident is a reminder to skippers of fishing vessels that uncorrected deficiencies may significantly increase the risk to their vessels and their crews. 9. Superintendents, and others, representing fishing vessel operators should take actions as necessary to ensure that any declarations that they make to the MCA, or other official bodies, are true. 10. The MCA should provide guidance and advice to encourage safer stowage of petrol on board fishing vessels.