InterManager Urges Overhaul in Confined-Space Safety Measures Following Eight Fatalities in a Week

Maritime Industry Faces Urgent Call for Unified Action to Combat Perennial Hazard

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In the wake of a distressing series of eight confined-space fatalities within a week, InterManager, a prominent maritime industry organization, has urgently called for a renewed emphasis on mitigating the persistent and life-threatening risks associated with confined-space entry.

Confined-space perils, an enduring challenge in shipping, arise from intrinsic factors within vessels. The corrosion of steel within the ship consumes oxygen, creating an anoxic environment in spaces lacking adequate air circulation. The inherent danger lies in its deceptive nature, remaining undetectable to personnel until they enter, realizing the lack of breathable air, unless preemptively assessed with an oxygen sensor. Tragically, the insidiousness of confined-space accidents often leads to additional casualties as crew members attempt to aid unconscious colleagues.

Various cargoes further compound these hazards, ranging from oxygen-depleting coal cargoes to air-displacing Freon refrigerants and cargoes emitting hazardous fumes, such as petroleum, ferrosilicon, and silicomanganese.

Despite decades of advocacy and regulatory warnings, confined-space incidents persist as a leading cause of fatalities in the shipping industry. The past week alone witnessed three seafarers and five shore workers succumb to confined-space accidents globally, elevating the annual toll to 31.

InterManager Secretary General, Capt. Kuba Szymanski, underscored the urgency of industry-wide collaboration to address this critical issue. He emphasized the unrealistic time pressures imposed on crew members and shore workers, coupled with inconsistent procedural instructions from ship to ship. Szymanski asserted that blaming seafarers and offering additional training is insufficient. Instead, he called for comprehensive accident investigations probing deeper into the decision-making processes and external pressures influencing these choices.

InterManager, citing 310 recorded personnel fatalities in shipboard confined spaces since 1996, has actively lobbied the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to revise rules governing confined space entry. Captain Szymanski urged naval architects to devise solutions aimed at “designing out” as much risk as possible, highlighting the imperative of incorporating the human element into vessel design to enhance safety and prevent future casualties.

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