Port to take action on safety

ACTION is to be taken at Felixstowe port to make the boarding of pilot boats safer following an accident in which a tugboat skipper lost part of his leg.

ACTION is to be taken at Felixstowe port to make the boarding of pilot boats safer following an accident in which a tugboat skipper lost part of his leg.

Geoff Bull, from Harwich, who is in his 50s, had to have his lower leg amputated after it was badly crushed when it became trapped between a boat and a floating pontoon.

The Marine Accident and Investigation Branch (MAIB) has now completed an investigation into the incident - and issued safety instructions to try to avoid a repeat in future.

Head of the MAIB, the chief inspector of marine accidents, has written to Stephen Bracewell, chief executive of Harwich Haven Authority, about using objective marine expertise in future risk assessments, and the dangers of complacency.


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The accident happened when Mr Bull became trapped between the Haven Harrier - a 16metre pilot launch - and a floating pontoon at Felixstowe's Landguard Terminal.

The pontoon was put in place last year as a berth for tugs and a pilot boarding and landing facility during the port expansion works because the Dock Basin is being filled in.

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On the morning of the accident on November 27, the coxswain of the Haven Harrier agreed to transport three tug crew members from the pontoon across to Harwich.

The first two men stepped on board, without incident, and then Mr Bull, who was carrying two small bags in his right hand, stepped onto a tyre fender with his right foot and was about to step onto the boat's deck with his left foot.

“The boat's bow pitched down and the man (Mr Bull), realising that he was in danger of falling onto the boat, decided to fall backwards onto the pontoon instead,” said the MAIB report.

“As he did so, the bow pitched up, rode over the fender, and then pitched down again, trapping his lower leg between the pontoon and the boat's hull.”

Since the accident the pontoon has been fully assessed and its use revised.

The MAIB says pilot boats must now reduce speed well in advance of approaching the pontoon, and vessels must be parallel alongside and secured with at least one line before boarding or disembarkation begins.

Tyre fenders must not to be used as steps during boarding or disembarkation.

Do you work at the port - and do you think the action taken will improve safety? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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