TT Talk - Maintenance of ship’s gear – lessons from ‘Pacific Adventurer’

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) recently published its report into the loss of 31 20ft containers from the deck of ‘Pacific Adventurer’. Two of the ATSB safety issues identified were:

  • The poor condition of much of the ship’s container lashing equipment indicated that the inspection and maintenance regime applied to this critical equipment had been inadequate; and
  • At the time of the incident, there was no requirement for any third party to inspect or survey the fixed and loose lashing equipment on a ship.

Reading the report, there are in fact a number of issues that could have contributed to the loss of these containers. However, the ATSB identified the most significant of these as the condition of the lashing gear. The recent publication of the IMO circular CSC.1 / Circ. 138 includes reference to gear carriers (clause 3.3 of the annex to the circular). It agrees that the Convention for Safe Containers does not necessarily cover gear carriers, but it ‘recommended that these units should be included in a maintenance and examination scheme and be subject to periodic inspections’, and it could be implied that the same recommendation should also apply to the loose gear carried.

  • Evidence collected from the ship showed that many of these deck fittings were so corroded that they easily came apart;
  • Both the dovetail and standard twistlocks appeared to be corroded and possibly could not be closed properly. Examples were found where the twistlock was cracked. Poor interconnection between containers on deck has been the cause of stack failures.
  • The lashing bars and fixtures, in particular the hook terminals and turn buckles

The turnbuckles and lashing rods also suffered from corrosion with extensive material loss (by up to twothirds in some cases), thus degrading their ability to perform as designed. The independent surveyor estimated that the corrosion had reduced the strength to 43 percent of the equivalent value in sound condition.Without the holding power of the twistlocks at deck level and the vertical connection between containers, it is possible that the containers slammed up and down stretching the corroded lashing gear hooks, increasing the distance of the slam until the hooks or lashing bars failed. The master had notified the ship’s manager of the defective lashing equipment and had agreed to replace the gear on a gradual basis. Unfortunately the replacement programme had not reached the bay from where the containers were lost.

It is not sufficient to send a simple message to ‘Maintain your gear!’ the consequences of failing to do so must also be examined. In the case of ‘Pacific Adventurer’ all 31 containers sunk, potentially releasing harmful materials into coastal waters. As the containers fell from the ship they punctured the ship’s side above the waterline which did not place the crew in immediate danger, but did permit fuel to leak out with the potential to cause a major environmental catastrophe.

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