The vessel was passing through Suez Canal. At the beginning of transit 3 suez crew boarded the vessel. Almost at the end of the canal passage, preparations were done for the crew to disembark. The routine method was to use the ship’s provision crane (located at midship, one deck above upper deck and aft of accommodation) for lowering their boat. This operation was done by Bosun under the supervision of the Chief Officer who was standing on port side of the same deck where the crane was located. One ordinary seaman was holding the forward part of the boat, by means of a rope during lowering so that it is always trimmed aft. It was around 1930 hrs and embarkation lights were used for lowering. The vessel was proceeding on ‘dead slow ahead’.

The boat was gradually lowered to just above the water level. All the instructions were given by C/O to the Bosun (who was one deck above) and the ordinary seaman (in the upper deck). The Suez crew started the engine. Unfortunately the engine could not be started (may be due to cold climate), which the ship’s crew were not aware of.

When the boat touched the water, the ordinary seaman let go the rope (by mistake). Vessel was moving ahead and the boat was still hooked to the crane and the forward rope did not have any effect on the boat, the boat started pitching heavily due to the choppy waves and the continuous movement. ’Stop’ orders were given from the bridge and engine responded. But the ship was still moving due to the momentum. The Bosun became panic and, not knowing what to do, suddenly gave he crane controls to the C/O.

At the same time, the boat capsized due to repeated contact of the bow with waves and all the three crew went overboard. It was unable to locate them due to the heavy swell and current and it was dark except around the embarkation light. The vessel could not stop for more time due to the traffic and the vessel was anchored after getting clear off the passage. The port control informed the search for the crew was on. After sometime, the agent asked the Master to continue the voyage. On the next day we came to know that one of the three crews died and the other two crew sustained serious injuries and were hospitalized.

The possibilities :

May be the proper briefing was not given to the crew. The ship staff could not have expectedthe breakdown of the engine and also there was no prior arrangement on what was to be done in case of such an emergency. Things could have been takenfor granted that the ship had so many north and south bound voyages in the same canal, and nothing had so far happened like above. This sort of complacency could have been avoided.

Suggestions to avoid re-occurrence:

1)The engine should be stopped while lowering the canal crew.
2)Contingency plant’ for the crew boat should have to be prepared.
3)Proper briefing to the members of the operating team every time.
4)Communication between the operating parties should be clear.
5)Additional search lights should be kept ready for locating the canal crew.