THE Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATSB) is investigating a fatal fall from a pilot ladder on the bulk carrier Formosabulk Clement.

The incident occurred 5 nautical miles east of Caloundra, Queensland on the evening of 9 August when the vessel was traveling from Mailiao, Taiwan to Newcastle, NSW.

According to the ATSB, the crew had prepared for a crew change at the Port of Brisbane outer anchorage. While at anchor, the signing-on crew boarded the Formosabulk Clement prior to the signing-off crew disembarking.

At about 1838, the chief officer was the first to leave, and while disembarking via the combination pilot ladder, they were struck by the transfer launch in heavy swell.

The chief officer fell into the sea and was recovered on board the launch soon after. The chief officer was seriously injured, and soon after lost consciousness and was unable to be revived.

The ATSB has begun a safety investigation into the accident. It said it would gather evidence from involved parties including the ship, launch and shore organisations. This will include conducting interviews and collecting records, recordings and other evidence relating to the planning and conduct of the crew change activity.

The bureau said it would release a preliminary investigation in several weeks. It will publish a final report at the end of the investigation.