Cargo surveyor dies when basket carrying him between ships falls into Pacific Ocean

A cargo surveyor fell into the Pacific Ocean to his death while being transferred between two tankers in a crane-and-basket system.

Reynaldo Agas, 40, of the Philippines, was lost at sea April 8 about 70 miles off the coast of San Diego, the U.S. Coast Guard said. Agas was an employee of load-measurement contractor Saybolt International BV.

The accident happened after crude oil was transferred between the tankers BW Thames and SKS Sinni in a lightering area. The vessels were separated by a 10-foot fender, said Paul Jones, general manager of marine at BW Fleet Management, which operates BW Thames.

“The cargo surveyor was lost into the sea and drowned as he was being transferred from BW Thames to SKS Sinni” in a “cargo crane and Billy Pugh-type personnel basket from SKS Sinni,” Jones said. The basket “was suspended from the crane on SKS Sinni.”

Witnesses said a wire snapped, and Agas fel900-foot vessel owned by SKS Tankers Ltd. of Hamilton, Bermuda. It is operated by Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Skipsrederi AS of Norway.

“The vessel and crew took immediate action when the accident occurred, implementing emergency efforts to search for the victim,” said Jim Lawrence, a spokesman for the SKS Sinni connections.

SKS Sinni’s crew sounded an alarm, threw life lines and life rings and immediately initiated a search and notified the Coast Guard. BW Thames also issued an emergency message, called the Coast Guard, tossed a life buoy, posted lookouts and called workboats.

The responding Coast Guard cutter, Sea Otter, reported visibility of seven miles with overcast skies, 15-knot winds and six-foot seas. A Jayhawk helicopter also helped with the search, but found only a life jacket that had been attached to the basket, Dunphy said. The air and sea search was called off after 16 hours.

Because the accident happened in international waters, the Coast Guard is not planning a formal casualty investigation, Dunphy said. The flag states may choose to investigate.

John Barbarise, U.S. West Coast area manager for Rotterdam-based Saybolt, said his company would have no comment on the casualty.

When Billy Pugh Co. baskets are used in personnel transfers, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that safety belts and tag lines be used. Billy Pugh Co., based in Corpus Christi, Texas, cautions mariners not to allow the rigging ropes or sling to come into contact with corrosive chemicals; lines should be inspected and replaced frequently.

Dom Yanchunas

By Professional Mariner Staff