About a week ago at the Fraser Surrey Docks in Vancouver, British Columbia, the container vessel SM MUMBAI (see photo below) was being discharged and, consistent with normal operating procedures, semi-automatic twistlocks were being released in preparation for a container crane’s cycles to take cargo to the shore. In the particular case of one particular twistlock, we understand that it was at a 5th high tier and that a worker at or near the other end of the actuator pole; at deck level, was a seasoned, “A” list longshore worker with 35 years of experience under his belt.
Something went terribly very wrong, however. During that container’s discharge, a twistlock became unshipped from the container’s bottom corner fitting and began its quick drop down. A worker below spotted the twistlock coming away from the container, and reflexively shouted to all within earshot “Heads Up!.”
That “A” List worker did in fact quickly look up, and within seconds was smacked directly in the face with the interbox connector. Given its weight and the length of its fall, the impact was nothing short of tremendous…. And devastating.
Today, that longshoreman lies in a local hospital bed… the subject of an induced coma while physicians plan the next course of interventional action and the rest of us pray for the best possible outcome.
We know that most (but not all) semi-automatic twistlocks once released from below will function as they’re designed. In sum, they’ll release from the bottom stow and stay attached to the top container. Once the crane lowers the container to the shoreside apron, workers there will turn the locks, remove them from the containers’ bottom apertures and place them in the provided receptacle.
In some cases, however, like this one, something unexpected happens… and once the top container is lifted the twistlock separates from the hoisted container’s bottom corner fitting anything can happen. Where that separation occurs is a matter of some conjecture; dependent upon a litany of factors. Moreover, why that separation occurs is also dependent upon another litany of factors. Generally, the latter’s factors are a function of maintenance (either of the semiautomatic twistlock or, alternatively, that of the container). Both, from the writer’s perspective, deserve a great deal more attention than they’re presently getting by the relevant parties.
Also, it must be recognized that working directly below a stack; in close proximity to a live container crane’s maneuvers, is not a very wise thing to do. And finally…. why can’t we get workers closer to the twistlocks they’re attempting to release?
Please….Learn and Live from this experience!
We've been contacted by a close friend of the longshore worker who was injured in this accident, who relates that some of the facts set out above require amendment: To begin with, he's an "A Board Casual" with 8 years of experience; not a 35 year veteran. Next, just before the accident he was walking across one of the vessel's catwalks with an actuator pole in hand to work on a different twistlock that was stuck. The twistlock in the container being lifted at that bay simply fell out during the hoist and struck him directly on the forehead. We also understand that he is no longer in a coma, but is rather heavily sedated and awaiting what will likely be a series of surgical procedures in order to restore the many broken facial bones he sustained. We're very glad that he will be a survivor, and wish Dan all good things going forward!
Steve Ironside There should be standard twist lock that all shipping company use. Not that this is the case but I’ve had so many lashers or stacker personal that either unlock the levers wrong because of some semi automatic have a different process of unlocking or locking. They have been trained on some of them. Back twenty or thirty years ago we only had a couple of different stackers and bridge fitting. Now I’m sure because of economic the ship gets what a new engineer has developed. And yes we need a inspection or a time stamp on the stackers so they can be taken out of service
President at The Blueoceana Company, Inc.