NEW Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission has released its final report on an accident in which a crew member was seriously injured while unmooring a containership.

The incident occurred in November 2020 at Timaru Port in New Zealand. Singapore-flagged Rio De La Plata was preparing for departure when a crewmember became caught in a rope and was dragged into the mooring winch, resulting in serious injuries to their hand and face.

TAIC said the accident was likely a result of the crewmember having reduced situational awareness of their own safety while engaged in communicating with the winch operator and handling the rope during the unmooring process.

Consequently, they stepped too close to the mooring winch and became trapped between the rope and the winch drum.

“The person in charge of the forward mooring party was also operating the winch,” TAIC said in its report.

“This very likely increased the risk of an accident because they no longer had a clear view of the entire operation and their ability to monitor the actions of others was reduced.”


Several other factors were understood to have contributed to the incident, such as insufficient planning, deviations from the safety management system, and physical equipment obstructing views of unmooring processes.

TAIC said the situation demonstrates that unmooring operations are just dangerous as mooring operations and crew must ensure there are always sufficient personnel available to carry out operations safely.

It also demonstrated why equipment onboard ships must be installed and operated as intended by the manufacturer. TAIC said any deviation from the manufacturer’s recommendation can increase the risk of serious injury.

“It is important that the person in a supervisory role remains an observer and does not take part in the actual work or handling operation,” TAIC said.

“Risk assessments are only effective if realistic control measures are put in place to mitigate the hazards that have been identified. The control measures then need to be implemented correctly to reduce the risk to as low as possible.”

TAIC expects the findings of the full report to be beneficial to crews from vessels within the fleet, the vessel owners and operators, maritime training facilities and shore-based emergency response agencies.