Two alcohol related deaths returning from runs ashore

The UK MAIB has recently issued a single report into two investigations on separate fatalities involving the same vessel over a five month period. In both cases, alcohol consumption was a contributory factor.

On August 13th 2014, the Master and mate of the UK registered 21m workboat GSP BATTLER managed to squeeze in a sneaky run ashore for some non-essential provisions and a few drinks in Almeria using someone else's tender. On the return trip in worsening conditions, the tender – which although usable was hardly suitable with a low freeboard and little reserve buoyancy – started to founder after two waves broke over it. The two men escaped the tender and then swam towards their own vessel. At this time, they were not in immediate danger and even talked and joked as they swam but soon became tired and drifted apart. An engineer from GSP BATTLER saw this and swam to assist them. He reached the mate and handed him a lifejacket, but was too late to assist the Master who had perished.

On January 6th 2015, a mate who was joining GSP BATTLER fell from the quayside into the dock in Marin, Spain. He had travelled all day, barely eaten and had then consumed a significant quantity of alcohol ashore and was ‘unsteady on his feet'. He fell into the dock while the Bosun was attempting to provide safe access for him and lost his life.

According to the MAIB's investigation, certain elements regarding the safety management system aboard GPS BATTLER were not present. Both deceased and some other members of the crew seemed to have a rather relaxed attitude to consumption of alcohol, which was determined to be a defining factor in both accidents. This was a severe breach to the drug and alcohol policy of the workboat. The first deceased was found to have been exceeding the United Kingdom's drink-drive limit by over 25% and the second deceased was roughly 4 times over the said limit.

With the exception of certain regions and cultures, it can be safely assumed that some guests and the occasional off-duty crew members may consume alcohol ashore. Whilst crew members will be expected to observe restrictions imposed on them, there are times that the tired or hungry crewmember may be unsteady on their feet with even just moderate consumption, and of course guests are enjoying leisure and all that may entail. Duty staff on board should be particularly alert to this and have adequate personnel available to assist, to have lifejackets available on tenders and to ensure that tenders being used are adequate for anticipated conditions.

For those on board Watkins' managed boats, please ensure that all crew members are given an opportunity to read this and confirm so in your next HESS meeting minutes. I can be contacted at any time if anyone has any questions. We would welcome any feedback of course, and would be pleased to circulate any comments.