BSU: Trainee Crushed by Steel Plates on Oldendorff Bulker

An Oldendorff Babycape, one of 16 in its fleet (Oldendorff file image)

Published Aug 3, 2023 3:02 PM by The Maritime Executive

Germany's Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation (BSU) has released an interim report on the fatal accident aboard the bulker Peter Oldendorff in Mukran, Germany last year. 

On August 3, 2022, was alongside at a pier in Mukran for cargo operations. That morning, a trainee fitter was assigned to cut out some steel plate material for a project. The 10 foot by four foot piece of steel plate stock was stacked on its side in a corner of the steering gear compartment, along with a variety of other plates of different dimensions. The plate he needed weighed about 660 pounds, not including the weight of the other material in the pile. All were leaned up next to a rail and secured in an upright position with a steel cross strut of angle iron. 

To start the task, the trainee - a 33-year-old Indian national - needed help to safely remove the piece of steel plate from the pile. He was assigned to set up his tools and wait for assistance from his crewmates. However, all of the members of the deck crew were busy with other tasks that morning. 

At about 1000 hours, a trainee marine engineer went into the steering gear compartment and found the fitter crushed by the pile of plates. The victim's upper body had been pinned against an adjacent rack, and he was unconscious. The engineer tried to free him, but could not lift the massive pile of steel plates by himself. He returned to the engine control room and got three crewmembers to come with him to help. Together, the four of them managed to free the victim at about 1003. They began CPR immediately and sounded the general alarm to alert the crew and bring help. 

A recreation of the accident scene (BSU)

The master coordinated the response and had the crew bring a stretcher. The crew carried the victim up to the main deck, where they continued attempts to revive him. An emergency physician arrived at 1018 and continued the effort until 1030, when the trainee was pronounced dead at the scene. He had never regained consciousness. 

Germany's Water Police notified BSU of the casualty, and the agency dispatched a team of investigators. They boarded the ship the next day and began examining the scene and questioning the crew. There were no witnesses to describe the course of events, so the investigators decided to replicate the accident using a dummy. 

The team found that once the piece of angle iron that secured the stack was removed, it was easy for the plates to fall over suddenly on their own, without further cause. The victim would have been trapped between the plates and the rack, with few if any chances to escape. The force would be likely to inflict fatal injuries from "massive crushing." 

Peter Oldendorff is a 2012-built bulker flagged in Liberia. Its last two PSC inspections identified ISM Code deficiencies and issues with mechanical equipment.