The gangway is the name of the stair, ladder or bridge structure that allows access to and from the deck of a ship, boat, dry dock or any type of vessel or marine structure. If the gangway is not properly secured, it may come loose and fall. If a person is on the gangway at the time, the results could and likely will be disastrous.
Maritime workers are at serious risk of gangway injuries when climbing from the shore to the deck of a ship. This is why gangway security is such an important part of shipyard safety. It is critical that ropes or chains are used to secure the gangway to both the ship and the shore so that it will remain adequately in place.
Examples of Gangway Injuries
Gangway injuries can arise out of many different scenarios. In Denmark in 2010, a lifting wire became stuck on the handrail while two ships assistants were on the gangway. When it broke loose, the gangway fell into a storage position and one of the men fell over 16 feet to the pier.
That same year in Germany, another man was killed when he fell from the gangway of a car carrier over 18 feet to the pier. Neither of these men were wearing their safety harnesses. Safety harnesses should always be worn to prevent gangway injuries or even deaths.
Why Gangway Accidents Happen
Gangway injuries are common because these access points are always used in some type of unstable condition.
Bar pilots and harbor captains will climb onto the gangway while the ship is in motion, perhaps the most dangerous of all ways to use the gangway. Crew and other workers climb the gangway while the vessel is on shore.
Even if the water is calm, the gangway will still constantly move, swing, drag, pull and push its way all over the pier. In rough seas, the movement is amplified, and gangway injuries are more likely to occur.
Handrails can be loose as well, which puts maritime workers in even more hazardous positions. Because the gangway will sway back and forth, several people at a time can be pushed into the handrails due to the ships motion in the water relative to the shore.
Gangway Safety Tips
While there’s no way to completely eliminate the risk of injury during a gangway crossing, there are several ways to minimize the hazards.
- Seaman or anyone else boarding or exiting the ship should exercise extreme caution.
- Always check to make sure ropes or some means of security are in place to prevent the gangway from moving too much or falling.
- Make sure the handrails are competent to hold the weight of a person because they are not for show and will be needed.
Lambert Zainey has a team of experienced maritime accident attorneys who fight for victims of maritime injuries including gangway injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while boarding or disembarking a vessel, call Lambert Zainey today for a free consultation with a Jones Act lawyer.