A worker on a Maltese bulk carrier was launched off the ship in a freefall lifeboat and spent hours in waters off Western Australia’s north after the release system was incorrectly reset in Singapore.
The Aquarosa was en route to Kwinana, south of Perth, on March 1 when the lifeboat was inadvertently released during a routine inspection, seriously injuring an engineer, who was in the orange vessel at the time.
He had noted in Singapore that the lifeboat release system hydraulics appeared to be losing oil, so he topped-up the pump with oil and moved its handle three or four times.
He intended to pressurise the system a little to see if he could identify any obvious oil leaks, but the boat shuddered and began to slide down the launching rails.
Knowing that the boat had been released and that he was unable to get out, he took a seat and attempted to put on the seatbelt.
The alarm was raised on the ship but it took about five hours to get the boat back on to the stern, with a 1.5 metre swell making manoeuvring and securing the lifeboat difficult.
Lines were thrown in an attempt to secure it but became stuck in the propeller, and a pilot ladder was deployed, but the engineer could not climb it because he was injured.
He was eventually helped onto the ship via a lowered gangway and later treated onshore for a fractured kneecap.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a recently-released preliminary report that measures had been implemented to prevent such an accident occurring again, including installing a safety pin that can be placed into the release hook during inspections and maintenance.