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Case study: Open watertight doors flood RORO, blocking escape; total loss declared

A roll-on/roll-off (RORO) vehicle carrier capsized resulting in 2 crewmembers with serious injuries and 4 crewmembers trapped in the engine room for nearly 40 hours before being rescued.

The vessel was declared a total loss and estimated US $142 million worth of cargo was also lost.

An accident investigation was carried out by the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). NTSB recommended that the operator revise its safety management system to establish procedures for verifying stability calculations and to ensure vessels meet stability requirements before leaving port as well as ensure all watertight doors and hull openings be closed and watertight in accordance with the vessel’s safety management system.

The NTSB found that after the vessel heeled, open watertight doors allowed flooding into the vessel which blocked the primary egress from the engine room where 4 crewmembers were trapped. The doors had been left open before the incident.

This incident shows how critical watertight integrity is to the safety of the vessel and its crew.