Life-raft canister falling from ship kills worker on gangway

A shore-based contractor died after being struck by a life-raft canister that was accidentally released from its cradle aboard a containership.

The canister fell from a cradle on the port side of President Polk.

The canister was one of two that were being returned to service on President Polk. They were dropped 50 feet to the dock at the Port of Los Angeles in two separate but related incidents.

While loading the second of the two 375-pound canisters, a crewmember accidentally released the first from its deployment cradle. The canister had not been secured to its cradle in any way and fell to the dock. No one was injured.

Deploying this type of life-raft canister is a two-part process. First, the securing straps must be released by striking the hydrostatic release buckle. And second, the actual release lever must be moved, allowing the canister to free-fall from the cradle.

After the first canister fell to the dock, the crew moved the other one from the upper to the lower position in the cradle. Once again, they failed to secure it properly with a temporary lashing until the hydrostatic release buckle and straps could be refitted.

Another crewman was summoned to inspect the release lever device on the cradle to make sure that it was not damaged. Upon inspection, he noted that the release lever was not properly seated. As he attempted to seat the lever, the release device sprang open, deploying the canister.

As the canister fell, it struck the contract worker on the gangway below. He sustained a broken pelvis and other internal injuries and died at a local hospital the next day.

Both incidents occurred within about 15 minutes of each other. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, no effort was made to secure the area on the dock after the first canister fell. Nor was any effort made to secure the second canister before or after it was moved.

The accident is still under investigation, but the Coast Guard captain of the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach has issued a safety alert recommending that all mariners review their life-raft loading policies. The report highlights the need to secure life rafts by appropriate means, such as a rope or chain, when loading and to secure vulnerable areas below.

By Professional Mariner Staff