Bahamas Marine Investigation Report: Fumigation poisoning fatality on M/V Magic Striker on 21 Dec 2021

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(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) On the morning of 21 December 2021, the Bahamas registered bulk carrier Magic Striker had nearly completed loading a cargo of corn in Chennai, India, when a team of fumigation contractors arrived onboard. In the early afternoon, two contractors entered cargo hold 4, wearing gas masks along with a phosphine gas detector.

Shortly afterwards, one of them climbed back out, feeling breathless. He then noticed his colleague had fallen and went back down the ladder to help him. He too collapsed. After the alarm was raised, the chief officer ran to the hatch and saw the two workers motionless at the bottom of the ladder. He then fetched an emergency escape breathing device which he wore to enter the hold and retrieve both contractors. One of the workers recovered but his colleague did not survive.

Why it happened:

Oxygen levels in the cargo hold had been depleted by the corn cargo inside – in the six days that the hatches had been shut, oxygen levels had fallen well below that needed to support life. Dangerous levels of phosphine were also found but toxicology showed no gaseous poison in the blood or lungs of the victim or survivor. The fumigation workers entered cargo hold 4 without the knowledge of the crew and without effective protection - the cargo holds were not considered dangerous spaces and therefore there was no safe system of entry or access control in place. The attempt to help a colleague in distress cost the victim his life. The uncoordinated rescue attempt by the chief officer using unsuitable equipment could have resulted in more victims.

What we can learn:

Organic cargoes, such as corn, can deplete oxygen (and raise carbon dioxide) to dangerous levels in enclosed spaces rapidly. The fumigation contractors’ protective equipment – gas masks and phosphine detector - offered no protection from the other hazard that they were exposed to. The risk of oxygen depletion was not considered by those onboard or ashore. The human drive to help those in distress is incredibly strong but can prove fatal: the importance of realistic drills to prepare for these scenarios and imprint an appropriate response cannot be underestimated. Shoreside personnel that are subject to the same risks would benefit from similar training.

Report Conclusions:

  • A fumigation contractor died and another was seriously injured when they entered a cargo hold that did not have sufficient oxygen to support life.
  • Oxygen levels in the cargo hold had been depleted by the corn cargo inside – in the six days that the hatches had been shut, oxygen levels had fallen below that needed to support life.
  • The cargo holds were not treat as dangerous spaces and therefore there was no control of access or any safe system of entry in place.
  • Contrary to the cargo documentation and specification, the corn had been fumigated prior to loading – significantly increasing risk to the health of all onboard for the duration of cargo operations.
  • The fumigation contractors protective equipment – gas masks and phosphine detector - offered protection from the phosphine but not to the other hazard that they were exposed to. The risk of oxygen depletion was not considered.
  • The victim re-entered and the cargo hold to help his colleague and was overcome. He was followed by two further colleagues who managed to exit before becoming casualties themselves.
  • The chief officer entered the hold to rescue the victims using unsuitable protection for himself and with insufficient support. The rescue operation was fortunate not to have resulted in further fatalities.

 

For more information, click below to download the full investigation report:

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Source: BMA

 

 

 

 

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