Classical tank entry accident

How many times are this going to happen before everybody learn??:

I worked on a chemical tanker for a few years, by far the most dangerous thing we did was enter a tank. We ran man down in the tank drills very often, and I always thought they were more important than the fire drills. I think that is the way you stop this, is you drill it repeatedly, so the first reaction is no longer an instinct, but a trained reaction. People due what they are trained to do, if training is done well, and repeated enough.


I wonder if there were any portable gas detectors on board??
Oh yes there was, but not the kind that need batteries…

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You mean Canary birds???
No batteries, but bird seed are required.

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ah no…
cheap labour in asia is the test method

Tank entry accidents happen all over the world, not just in Asia.


It seems to be a natural human reflex to try to safe the man in the tank while the obvious action is to get help instead of entering the tank.

I remember that after the Butterworthing exercise was over the sailors had to remove remaining bits and pieces of the cargo, no Drägers yet then. The mate at the manhole had to observe the behavior of the man. One sign of trouble was that they if they started to sing very loudly they were immediately ordered out of the tank. Then it was discovered that they started to sing if they wanted an extra break…

The same type of accident happens in the fishing industry with freon refrigerant leaks. Training is the only solution.

Among other things, we train that if you are outside of a cargo hold and see someone collapsed on deck within, there’s nothing you can do to help, no matter the cause, so just go for the captain or mate. Investigating yourself in any case is a waste of time. It just puts the victim and yourself in more peril.

On a freon ship, two people flat on deck in a cargo hold is always a sign of low oxygen level. The only solution: rescue with SCBA.

It is not easy to vertically extract an unconscious man from a confined space without further injuring him. Technique is everything. Our crews practice it every year.


Back in the day on tankers we had MSA instruments that we maintained and calibrated onboard which I’m sure would not pass the sniff test with HR these days.
We also always had a trolley set in the vicinity. It was connected to the ship’s airline through a large filter in addition to the two tanks pictured.

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all ships have air
how hard to plumb it around the vessel with a mask hanging close by?
( plus some filtration to make it safe)


We have the same thing, but not interfaced with ship’s air. The crew also takes individual pony bottles with them which have a Y connector for more sustainability if needed for the cascaded bottles on the surface. This is only used for escape. I think we have a dozen portable gas detectors along with the MSA Galaxy GX2 calibration station and link software for serialized tracking which is good for identifying sensor variance trends. From a process standpoint, it takes about an hour just to do the paperwork not to mention all of the required equipment and having the rescue team endorse the plan prior to the PTW. I keep a sheet in my office that has a list of all personnel with confined space training, those with rescue training, and if they participated in a drill within the last 60 days. If these criteria are not met, I don’t sign the PTW.
Gas detector calibration should be done onboard if you have the right equipment. The OEM generally recommends their own calibration stations, and if you have that, your are calibrating & bump testing continuously, not just semi-annually or annually for the calibration.


For me it was many years ago and the equipment will have been improved but it sounds like you have it sorted . Our self contained sets had a Pigtail so that air could be supplied from the trolley set as well. The responsible officer for checking and refilling bottles when necessary was the third officer.

walk in with a mask and full air just about skips all that H&S crap and it should just be the norm, we cant breath underwater so its just the same.
We all wear full air masks to do firefighting dont we?
If you want to do something longterm with lots of people sure test the air etc.
I think in 99% of the cases it was a quick trip into a tank for something, mask, airline would have already saved countless lives but offshore crew are cheap to kill so no masks and airlines

You may want to sell that to the regulators and industry. Going into a confined space on air without gas testing can be just as dangerous. We do wear full air masks while fire fighting, but everyone doesn’t wear this gear - waiting for a fire to happen. And, when underwater on scuba, not too much of a risk for water to absorb into your skin and killing you quickly or causing long-term health issues. It’s not too difficult to have good training and robust processes while keeping people safe. I’ve never heard of one instance where H&S crap when observed by trained professionals resulted in a fatality.


Having some experience with Bangladeshi contract employees this does not surprise me. Those guys employment contracts leave them as little more than slaves. Any problem they will be shipped back to Bangladesh. They receive minimal safety training, they are basically disposable, I will never forget seeing them fill plastic bags with water at the beginning of the day at a yard in Singapore, I asked why they were doing that and they said if they took too long to look for water to drink they could be fired so it was better to fill trash bags with water to drink later.

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When I shipped out on tankers we had British officers and Indian crew. The crew weren’t keen on working with Indian Officers.


yes, but what I’m saying is the H&S process is arduous so it gets skipped

It only gets skipped from lack of leadership, training, or both. Taking a little extra time and making sure safety processes are followed is part of the task. At the end of the day, people do not plan to enter a confined space and never come out alive. By implying the H&S process is arduous, then one exists. In that case, accountability is an issue as well. Most industries have adopted Life-Saving Rules | IOGP
Generally, if life-saving rules are broken, you go home - no questions asked. Fired on the spot. It’s better to fire someone than to send them home in a body bag. If you don’t have that type of established safety culture, you have big problems.

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all true in utopia but not in the 3rd world
Even in Singapore where there are sort of standards that are sort of followed people get killed and mangled in ships yards every day.
Only time it makes the news is when a tank blows up as everyone can hear it.

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Yes, you have.

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