Three Seafarers Dead in Confined Space Accident

The Apollo Kita (file image via social media)

Published Nov 12, 2018 5:37 PM by The Maritime Executive

Three crewmembers of the timber carrier Apollo Kita died Friday while working in one of the vessel's holds. The suspected cause of death was asphyxiation. 

While the Kita was under way off Ishigakijima, bound for Osaka with a load of wood, the three crewmembers entered the hold and became unconscious. They were flown to a hospital in Ishigaki for treatment, but they did not recover. Authorities in Ishigaki believe that the oxygen level in the hold may have fallen too low, causing the men to lose consciousness. 

The three victims were all Philippine nationals, and ranged in age from 26 to 59. Japan's Transportation Safety Commission has launched an investigation into the cause of the casualty. 

The Apollo Kita is a 12,000 dwt geared bulker built in 2011, and she is Japanese-owned. As of Monday evening, she was under way and approaching Osaka. 

Dangers of confined-space entry

Fatalities involving confined-space entry are not uncommon in the maritime sector, despite years of effort to reduce their occurrence. “The shipping industry has produced a wealth of rules, procedures, guidelines, leaflets etc. concerned with the risks of working in enclosed spaces aboard vessels, and yet seafarers are still dying while engaged in these activities," said Capt. Kuba Szymanski, secretary general of ship management trade group Intermanager, in a statement Friday. 

Acknowledging the limitations of a top-down approach, Intermanager has launched a new campaign to engage seafarers in the risk-assessment process for confined space entry. “We want to hear from the seafarers themselves to find out why fatal mistakes are still being made. Are we missing a trick here? Is there something we haven’t taken into consideration?” Capt. Szymanski said. “This campaign puts seafarers in the driving seat and allows them to take charge of this risk to their lives.”

The survey aims to gather best practices from the deckplate level up, and in return, it offers a reward. The seafarer with the best response will receive a MacBook Air and a $2,000 contribution for their ship's welfare fund.