Crush incident involving power operated watertight door on ro-ro cargo vessel Ark Forwarder with loss of 1 life

Location: Thames Estuary, England.

Completed PE Summary: Ark Forwarder

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Merchant Vessel/Accident Details
Vessel Name Ark Forwarder
Manager Northern Marine Management
Ship Owner Stena International B.V
Port of Registry London
Flag UK
Classification Society Det Norske Veritas
Type Ro-ro cargo vessel
Built 1998
Construction Steel
Length Overall 166.29m
Gross Tonnage 21104
Date/Time 09/08/2008, 0258 (+2 UTC)
Location of Incident Thames Estuary
Incident Type Accident to person
Persons Onboard 19
Injuries/Fatalities 1 fatality
Damage/Pollution None


During passage from the Thames Estuary to Tilbury, the chief and third engineers on board the ro-ro cargo vessel, Ark Forwarder were in the engine control room (ECR) when an electrical earth was detected on the vessel’s calorifier sited in the bow thruster compartment. The Electro Technical officer (ETO) was woken at 0230 to rectify the fault and arrived in the ECR 10 minutes later. He then made his way to the bow thrusters compartment and, at about 0250, the chief engineer noticed the alarm indicating the earth stopped. Shortly afterwards, the third engineer left the ECR to conduct routine rounds of the engine room and found the ETO pinned between a powered watertight door and its frame. He was unable to open the door because the movement of its operating lever was impeded due to the position of the ETO. The third engineer raised the alarm and the ETO was eventually released after the door’s hydraulic system had been de-pressurised. The crew’s attempts to revive the ETO were not successful, and he was pronounced deceased by paramedics who met the vessel as she entered Tilbury dock.

Action taken

The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to the vessel’s manager and recommended that it reviews its safety management system to ensure:

  • Its policy regarding the use of the normal and emergency modes of operation of powered watertight doors is understood and adhered to across its fleet.

  • Master control panels for the operation of watertight doors are clearly marked to indicate that the ‘remote’ or ‘automatic’ mode of operation is only to be used during emergencies, drills or when testing.

  • Signage is placed on or near powered watertight doors, highlighting the potential dangers of failing to follow the correct transit procedure.

In response, Northern Marine Management has reviewed and amended its safety management system and has arranged for appropriate signage to be placed on board its vessels.

Published: September 2008

Published 23 January 2015