Three Chinese seafarers are believed to have suffocated after they were trapped in an enclosed space on board the Chinese-operated Kamsarmax bulk carrier MSXT Echo.
The 2021-built ship, operated by China-based MSM Ship Management, had arrived in Taiwan’s Hoping port around 8pm local time on 6 September, carrying coal from Richards Bay, South Africa.
As MSXT Echo neared the port, the ship’s crew radioed for an emergency evacuation, saying the three men had become unconscious in an enclosed space on the vessel.
Taiwan Coast Guard sent a patrol craft to the MSXT Echo, but the Coast Guard crew did not have the right equipment to enter the confined space. Subsequently, the Coast Guard deployed a helicopter to the scene.
The men were hoisted out by the helicopter crew in a three-hour operation but were pronounced dead on arrival at the hospitals.
Vessel-tracking data shows the MSXT Echo remains anchored outside Hoping.
The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch has called for more efforts to prevent deaths in enclosed spaces. Annually, around 200 seafarers die or get injured in enclosed spaces due to the lack of oxygen. The UK agency’s chief inspector, Captain Andrew Moll, said in its 2022 annual report many seafarers attempt to save their trapped colleagues, losing their own lives or becoming injured in the process.
It is the second incident involving a ship operated by MSM Ship Management. On 24 August, another bulk carrier, MSXT Emily, was banned from Australia for a year, after the Australian Maritime Safety Authority uncovered non-payment of wages and mistreatment of crew.
On receiving a tip-off from the International Transport Workers’ Federation, AMSA officials detained the MSXT Emily after the ship arrived in Hay Point on 18 August. The officials inspected the ship over two days and found evidence of the ITF’s allegations.