Deaths in enclosed spaces on ships must be prevented, says InterManager

With eight deaths over seven days in December 2023 in enclosed spaces on ships, InterManager has called on the shipping industry to work together to improve safety in these challenging onboard areas.

Three seafarers and five shore workers died in accidents in enclosed spaces in early December, bringing 2023’s known deaths to a total of 31, although the reporting process can be slow. 

InterManager, the international trade association for the ship and crew management sector, keeps records of these incidents on behalf of the wider shipping community, sharing them with regulators in its role as a non-governmental organization (NGO) member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). 

These statistics reveal that since 1996, 310 people lost their lives in enclosed spaces – 224 seafarers and 86 shore personnel in 197 accidents.

Thanks to lobbying by InterManager and other industry stakeholders, the IMO has committed to review and strengthen regulations relating to enclosed space entry aboard ships.

InterManager Secretary General, Captain Kuba Szymanski, commented: “One death is too many but eight in seven days is ridiculous. This is an industry-wide issue which everyone in the shipping community must work together to resolve. 

“We have crew members and shore workers placed under unrealistic time pressures to conduct high-risk tasks such as tank cleaning, and we have confusing instructions which vary from ship to ship as to what procedures and protocols must be followed.

“It’s not enough to blame the seafarers and offer additional training. Accident investigations must delve deeper into why people make the decisions they do and examine what external pressures impact those decisions. And ship architects and builders must work harder to design out these hazardous spaces where possible. No-one should lose their life doing their job.”

The IMO subcommittee relating to the Carriage of Cargoes and Containers is in the process of revising Resolution A.1050(27) to ensure the safety of personnel entering enclosed spaces on board ships, with a target completion in 2024. Resolution A.1050 (27) concerns the “recommendations for entering enclosed spaces aboard ships.”

InterManager strongly believes that the scope of the revision needs to be broad and comprehensive in order to take into account both the human element and ship design factors that have contributed to previous enclosed space incidents. 

“This is what’s needed to mitigate against, and hopefully prevent, such incidents occurring in the future,” said Capt Szymanski.

Photo credit: iStock/ Thank you for your assistant

The best maritime news and insights delivered to you.

subscribe maritime fairtrade

Here's what you can expect from us:

  • Event offers and discounts
  • News & key insights of the maritime industry
  • Expert analysis and opinions on corruption and more