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Nautilus asks UK shipping minister to act on enclosed space deaths

Nautilus asks UK shipping minister to act on enclosed space deaths
Maritime union Nautilus International has appealed to UK shipping minster John Hayes to lead regulatory reforms to protect seafarers from the dangers of enclosed spaces.

The letter to the minister follows an incident aboard the Sally Ann C last month, in which two seafarers died off the coast of Africa. Both the chief officer and chief engineer of the ship died after entering a timber-laden cargo hold. The second officer went to rescue his colleagues and needed saving himself after losing consciousness.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson wrote to Hayes that the incident follwed a ‘very familiar pattern of one crew member collapsing in an oxygen-deficient area, and two more being overcome after entering the space without personal protection equipment in an attempt to rescue their colleagues’.

Dickinson expanded that evidence suggests death and injury occurs more often in enclosed spaces than in any other onboard activity, and that it is only becoming more dangerous as ship design and onboard operational changes evolve.

Calling for the UK to lead reform, Dickinson said that mandatory training should be in place relating to enclosed spaces, and all ships should be equipped with oxygen meters to allow crew to test the atmosphere before entering an enclosed area.

The union's letter also highlighted the number of recommendations that have been made through the investigation of similar deaths in enclosed spaces, "however, the continued death toll should surely tell us that something is wrong with this approach.

"I hope you can support our aim to deliver innovative thinking to address the situation and to find improved ways of tackling some of the fundamental problems," wrote Dickinson. "We really cannot afford to continue witnessing the shocking scale of fatalities that currently blight the industry."