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Transportation Safety Board releases report of Thunder Bay shipping incident

The sailor was unable to climb back aboard after sitting on ladder, just one metre above surface of the water, for 20 minutes in frigid temperatures.
The Federal Champlain (Fednav Ltd.)

THUNDER BAY – The national transportation safety board has wrapped up an investigation into an incident at the Thunder Bay port where a sailor had to be rescued from frigid water after being unable to climb back up the ship’s ladder.

The incident happened on Dec. 8, 2017 at Thunder Bay Terminals while the Federal Champlain was loading potash.

The third officer, who was continuously monitored, climbed down a ladder to the side of the ship to read draft measurements after an on-deck device used to take measurements failed when its water and antifreeze mixture froze.

The third officer, who was wearing winter clothing, was seated on the second last step of the ladder, one metre from the surface of the water, with his feet pressed against the hull of the ship.

After 20 minutes, the sailor said he was uncomfortable and asked to be relieved. He was unable to climb up the ladder and was said to be in severe pain. He was then lowered into the water, put the life buoy around his neck and floated on his back.

Crew members launched a rescue boat, while a small craft was launched from shore. That small craft boat rescued the sailor and eventually transported him to an ambulance.

The sailor was taken to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, where he was briefly hospitalized with moderate hypothermia.

The air temperature had been measured at – 12C, with wind chill values of – 14C. The water temperature was – 2C, though there was no ice present in the harbour.

The investigation determined that neither the ship’s risk assessment nor its permit to work overboard included provisions for recovery or rescue in case of emergency.

The company conducted an internal investigation and has since encouraged crews to use a small craft vessel to measure seaward draft in cold weather conditions and that using a ladder to read draft marks in cold weather should be kept to a minimum.