Maritime Risk focus: Enclosed Space Entry and Rescue

Enclosed Space Entry

( Failure to comply with company procedures regarding entry into enclosed spaces can be fatal. This key shipboard operation sadly continues to cause injury and take lives every year, and in the following, we briefly deal with the hazards, regulations and procedures involved in entering enclosed spaces.

The most frequent hazards when entering an enclosed space are the following:

  • Oxygen depletion or enrichment
  • Carbon monoxide exposure
  • Hydrogen sulfide exposure
  • Toxic atmospheres
  • Flammable atmosphere

Enclosed space means a space which has any of the following characteristics:

  • Limited openings for entry and exit;
  • Inadequate ventilation; and
  • Is not designed for continuous occupancy.


The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974 caters for, and regulates, the risk associated with entering enclosed spaces.

The shipping company must provide a Safety Management System (SMS) which takes into consideration the SOLAS requirements and supports the crew with instructions, procedures and checklists for them to mitigate known risks associated with such entries. The SMS should be tailored to the respective vessel and be designed as an intuitive system supporting the crew to perform their onboard duties in a safe manner.

Procedures and precautions

Investigations show that accidents, in most cases, are caused by insufficient knowledge of the need to take precautions when entering enclosed spaces. Crew directly or indirectly engaged in entering enclosed spaces must accordingly be familiarized with the company Safety Management System (SMS) mentioned above.

Ships trading in any and all sectors can benefit from the information in the attached guidance.

The following guidance and advice from ICS relates to enclosed space entry and rescue on board ships, and includes background information on the hazards and potential atmospheres that might accumulate in such spaces. It contains specific advice on pre-entry procedures, entry into and work in enclosed spaces, and emergency rescue.

In addition to the particular risks associated with the atmosphere in an enclosed space, the same risks exist as in any working environment, including 'slips, trips and falls'. The characteristics of enclosed spaces, however, make the preparation and planning of procedures to address such risks additionally difficult.

This guidance is based on the relevant section of the ICS Tanker Safety Guide (Chemicals), and may be found to be useful information for enclosed space entry on a variety of ship types. For operations particularly on chemical tankers the original text of the ICS Tanker Safety Guide (Chemicals) as well as ISGOTT, should be used, as this extract lacks some information including cross-references to supporting information that is only available in the complete and unabridged publication(s).

Click on above image to download the full guide.

Investigations into such incidents show that most are caused by poor training and knowledge of the correct entry procedures, or a disregard for them. It is therefore vital that all seafarers are aware of the danger of enclosed spaces and learn the correct entry procedures, whether or not it is a requirement of their role on board. Seafarers must understand that no enclosed space should be entered without following proper precautions, even in an emergency.

The purpose of the below Master's guide from The Standard Club, is to assist seafarers to enter enclosed spaces safely, in order to prevent enclosed space-related casualties.

Click on above image to download the full guide.

In addition, you can find below more resources on the subject. Click on each image to download the document.


Sources: ICS, The Stanrd Club, Steamship Mutual, West Of England, TT Club.


Watch the relevant video below from IGP&I:






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