An unsafe loading operation resulted in the death of a chief officer on a V.Ships bulker in Russia, an accident report has found.

Yuriy Maslov, 54, died when he was hit on the head by a mooring line on the 32,000-dwt Isle of Man-flag Teal Bay (built 2007) in Port Kavkaz on 30 August, 2021.

The line sprang out of an open roller fairlead when the ship was being moved forward by tensioning the aft spring to allow loading to be completed, the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said.

A fairlead is a device to guide a line around an object. This will typically be a ring or hook.

Maslov had been with the company for more than 20 years.

He was wearing shorts, a T-shirt, safety boots, gloves and a hard hat at the time of the accident.

The vessel was alongside another ship for a cargo transfer. As the bosun slackened the forward springs, a rating began to haul in on one of the aft springs to heave Teal Bay forward.

Almost as soon as the mooring line came under tension, it sprang out of its fairlead and struck the officer as it snapped tight.

The upward angle had become too great for the open fairlead to contain the line, MAIB found.

Brain injuries

A post-mortem examination determined Maslov had suffered closed blunt force trauma to the head, traumatic swelling of the brain and a brain haemorrhage.

The investigation found that the use of an open fairlead was inappropriate during the transfer of cargo where a freeboard differential created the hazard of an upward lead on the mooring lines.

“The chief officer was struck because he was standing in a hazardous area close to a tensioned mooring line and the operation to move Teal Bay forward was attempted with an insufficient crew and had not been risk assessed,” MAIB said.

Although on board records indicated that the officer had met the requirements of the hours of work and rest regulations, he was tired when tasked to warp the vessel forward, a point acknowledged by the master.

Maslov’s fatigue may have influenced his actions and motivated him to complete the job quickly so he could rest, investigators believe.

“He had, almost certainly, not appreciated the risk of the spring line jumping out of the fairlead,” the report said.

Response delayed

No professional medical attention was given for more than two hours after the incident.

“Given the severity of his injuries, it is unknown whether the delays in the chief officer receiving medical attention had any bearing on his death; however, the lack of coordination by the parties involved in organising the medical response created delays that lessened his chances of survival,” MAIB added.

V.Ships has since conducted additional safety training with the vessel’s crew, issued a fleet-wide safety alert to highlight the issues raised by the accident report, and set out a plan for the replacement of open fairleads on its vessels.