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Confined space operations

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 11:34 authored by Philip MackrillPhilip Mackrill, Lyndon GabitesLyndon Gabites, Anthony BeckettAnthony Beckett

The intent of this paper is to further stimulate a global approach to managing the risk exposure for seafarers working in, on or around confined spaces. Whilst this requires a holistic approach, this paper focuses on the standards of training and competence, in an effort to enhance the human and confined space operations interface within maritime specific training, drills, equipment and regulatory aspects. The ultimate aim being to mitigate the rate of injury and fatal incidences.

It is widely accepted in the maritime industry working in, on or around confined spaces has its risks. Whilst these risks are controllable, incidents resulting in serious injury and fatalities are nothing new, the continued loss of seafarer lives must be addressed.

In an effort to improve safety, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) released its revised recommendations for entering enclosed spaces aboard ships in 2011. However incidents listed by maritime investigation bodies since the adoption of the IMO’s revised recommendations, suggest more needs to be done. The introduction of mandatory entry & rescue drills are certainly a move in the right direction; question is, are they enough to positively influence safety and reduce incidents? Or do they simply provide a mechanism to tick the compliance box.

Why is it, in this day and age, seafarers are still succumbing to the hazards and risks of these spaces? Investigative reports often cite the cause of fatalities, as atmospheric, this being the most common hazard. What is contributing to these lethal situations? Is it a combination of error inducing factors at individual, job or organisational levels?

More needs to be done in developing and embracing standards, including operational, equipment and training to enhance human reliability and reduce error inducing factors and those fatal consequences that follow. Could part of the answer be the introduction of confined space training under the mandatory Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) structure?


Publication title

Proceedings of IAMU AGA 17






Australian Maritime College


Vietnam Maritime University

Place of publication


Event title

IAMU AGA 17 - Working together: the key way to enhance the quality of maritime education, training and research

Event Venue

Haiphong, Vietnam

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Date of Event (End Date)


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Occupational health

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