Warning on enclosed cargo spaces
Scrap metal or coconuts may not seem like a particularly hazardous cargo, but insurer TT Club is reminding the shipping industry about the danger of possible asphyxiation of cargo workers sent into enclosed cargo spaces on bulk vessels and containerships.
“Tragically, a regular cause of fatalities amongst shore-side labor working onboard bulk cargo vessels is asphyxiation. Similar incidents are known to occur when workers enter freight containers whether onboard ship, on terminal or during any point on its onward journey,” said TT Club, which has produced two pocket guides on the issue.
'Fatalities can occur under certain circumstances within the enclosed spaces of cargo holds on bulk cargo vessels as well as in containers when the cargo emits either noxious gases or even inert ones in such quantity that they replace the oxygen available in a tightly packed, restricted environment,' said Peregrine Storrs-Fox, TT Club's risk management director.
These include commonly transported cargoes and processes that absorb the oxygen out of the atmosphere, including the chemical process of rusting, TT Club said.
“Experience has shown that the process can work relatively quickly and produce dangerous conditions, in a cargo of scrap metal for example, overnight. Other cargoes can also produce the same outcome, for example copra,” the dried meat of coconuts, explained the insurer.
“Specifically concerning containers there is also another hazard. A number of cargoes require fumigation and, whilst some are fumigated before traveling and, therefore, should be safe, it is quite common to insert a fumigant following the loading of goods into the container. Fumigants can, therefore, be present during the movement and still be a hazard at unloading,” TT Club.
Finally, TT Club warns while “it is human nature to go to the assistance of a colleague in trouble but, unfortunately in these sorts of situations, multiple deaths have occurred as would-be rescuers are overcome by the same asphyxiating conditions experienced by the first entrant. Such attempts should, therefore only be undertaken with the use of proper protective breathing equipment.”
TT Club said the guides are available for download at its Web site. ' Chris Dupin