InterManager Urges Prevention of Enclosed Space Deaths

A speeding ambulance
Updated Published

In a concerning development, InterManager, the international trade association for ship and crew management, has highlighted a series of fatal incidents within a week in December 2023, where eight individuals lost their lives in enclosed spaces aboard ships. This has prompted a strong call for enhanced safety measures in these particularly hazardous areas on board.

The first week of December saw the unfortunate demise of three seafarers and five shore-based workers in such environments, escalating the total count of similar fatalities in 2023 to 31. It is noteworthy, however, that there might be delays in the reporting of these incidents.

Tasked with the responsibility of documenting these occurrences, InterManager shares this vital information with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), contributing as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in this regulatory space.

A sobering look at the records since 1996 reveals that 310 individuals – 224 seafarers and 86 shore staff – have tragically perished in 197 accidents within enclosed spaces on ships.

InterManager's continuous efforts, alongside other industry advocates, have led the IMO to commit to revising and enhancing the regulations concerning entry into enclosed spaces on ships.

Captain Kuba Szymanski, Secretary General of InterManager, stated emphatically, “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's subcommittee on the Carriage of Cargoes and Containers is currently in the midst of revising Resolution A.1050(27), aiming for completion in 2024. Resolution A.1050 (27) deals with the "recommendations for entering enclosed spaces aboard ships."

InterManager is adamant that this revision should be comprehensive, addressing both the human behavioral elements and the ship design factors that have historically contributed to incidents in enclosed spaces.

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