Captain Michael Lloyd, a Marine Consultant for MRS Training and Rescue, describes enclosed spaces on board ship as one of the greatest safety issues and makes a compelling case for training.
Ships are constructed from a series of boxes of differing shapes, most of which are designed to be waterproof which generally means air proof as well. Once these spaces are enclosed any oxygen deteriorates because of a number of factors, for example fumes given off from paint, leaks from pipes passing through the space and even the steel from which the space is constructed using oxygen as rust develops.
Ships carry a host of information on safety in enclosed spaces but seafarers are still dying because a key element is missing – training. Currently there is no legislation requiring enclosed space entry training, or just as importantly, enclosed space rescue, despite the fact that more people die in enclosed space accidents than in fire-related accidents.
It is not only those on board who are at risk but also those coming onto the ship in port, especially stevedores and surveyors. In too many cases they assume that those on board have some training, and therefore knowledge of enclosed spaces, and have taken the required precautions for the spaces being entered. They assume that, should something go wrong, the ship has the appropriate equipment to rescue them.
In the majority of cases, this would be wrong. Apart from having little knowledge of enclosed spaces, there are few ships with enclosed space rescue equipment and even fewer with any form of training in the use of such equipment. Even something like a resuscitator, which is essential in sustaining life in any rescue attempt from an enclosed space, is rare on board ships.
The case for Training
The MRS Training and Rescue organisation, formally known as the Mines Rescue Service, is the only company that has specialised in marine enclosed space rescue.
Over the last ten years they have boarded a wide variety of ships in port, at sea and in dry docks, translating their mining enclosed space techniques, gained over 100 years, into marine rescue.
This has now resulted in them joining with Fire Aid, a specialist Marine Fire training company to form the Solent Marine Training Academy, the first of its kind in the UK. Based in Hythe, Southampton, trainees can experience enclosed space training in the hull of an oceangoing vessel with trainers who have performed real rescues.
As there is no legislated requirement for such training, it falls to ship owners and managers to recognise that fatalities can be prevented and that formal training is the only way forward.