Singapore manager of Baltimore bridge ship was grilled over death in Australian waters six years ago

Sean Smith
The Nightly
2 Min Read
The container ship struck a bridge pylon, crumpling almost the entire structure into the water.
The container ship struck a bridge pylon, crumpling almost the entire structure into the water. Credit: AP

The Singapore maritime manager implicated in the fatal Baltimore bridge collapse in the US was grilled six years ago over a mysterious death on a container ship out of Fremantle.

Synergy Marine was the operator of the OOCL Kuala Lumpur when one of its crew was killed on June 3, 2018, after repairing an elevator on the vessel, south-east of Port Botany.

Investigations by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found safety shortcomings contributed to the death of the man, who received fatal injuries after being trapped between the elevator cage and the ship’s bulkhead.

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However, the ATSB said “the exact circumstances” around the death “could not be determined”, questioning how the elevator control was changed from manual to auto and the elevator called when the crew member was still in the shaft.

The investigation found that safety barriers were not in place before work commenced, the ship’s crew were not warned against using the elevator and no warning signs were posted at the access doors.

Following the fatality, the ATSB said Synergy Marine had launched an education program throughout the fleet to address its safe work practices, permit-to-work system, risk assessment and elevator maintenance.

Synergy Marine’s safety record is under renewed scrutiny since the container ship Dali hit a pylon on Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday, sending the structure into the water.

Six people on the bridge are missing and presumed dead after falling into the frigid water below.

The 289m-long Dali, one of 660 vessels said to be managed by Synergy, was carrying 4679 shipping containers and leaving Baltimore en route to Sri Lanka. None of its crew were injured.

The same ship was involved in an incident in Antwerp Belgium in 2016, when it hit a quay as it tried to exit a container terminal.

A later inspection last year in San Antonio Chile found the vessel had “propulsion and auxiliary machinery” deficiencies, according to data on the public Equasis website, which provides information on ships.

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