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‘Gangways not sufficiently safe’ — Faroese Maritime Authority responds to death of Polish sailor

The Faroese Maritime Authority has called for stricter adherence to gangway safety and issued guidelines especially for smaller vessels to highlight best practices, following the death of a Polish fisherman in Tórshavn in late November.

So far the FMA has not explicitly concluded whether or not any irregularities concerning gangway safety did occur in connection with the tragic incident at the West Harbour.

“The existing rules and regulations on gangway safety are very clear in particular when it comes to vessels above 45 meters in length,” FMA Director General Hans Johannes á Brúgv pointed out. As for smaller vessels, however, many of which are fishing boats, the rules seem to leave more room for individual adaptation.

“In this particular case at this point, we can neither conclude nor rule out whether or not the issue of gangway safety indeed was a factor in that fateful turn of events,” Mr. á Brúgv told Local.fo.

“In connection with the tragic fatality of November 27th, where a crew member of the Ametyst was found dead in the sea near the vessel, the Faroese Maritime Authority has conducted an investigation at the scene of the incident and made a number of general observations on gangways,” a statement read, released by the authority on December 6th.

Titled “Gangways not sufficiently safe,” the statement further noted: “It can be concluded that the exact placement of ladders and gangways can vary to quite a degree. Vessels are diverse and the Faroese Maritime Authority’s Executive Order E, Chapter 6, Regulation 7 on minimum standards for construction and equipment etc for fishing vessels specifies a number of guidelines to follow.”

Raising questions

“All vessels must be safe for people to enter and leave, and vessels over 45 meters must have a gangway,” the Director General said. “In any case this is always the responsibility of the captain.”

In its statement, the FMA provided the following short-hand list:

“1. The gangway must be stable with pillars and railing ropes properly mounted and tightened;
“2. The gangway must be well attached to the vessel, preferably at deck height where possible;
“3. The gangway must be safe to walk on and e.g. its surface be non-slippery;
“4. The angle of the gangway should preferably not exceed 30 degrees;
“5. A safety net must be placed under the gangway to prevent anyone from falling into the sea;
“6. The gangway must be properly lit.”

“It should be noted that as yet there is no certainty over why and where the man fell into the water and drowned on the night before Sunday November 27th, 2022. Also there was a safety net in place under the gangway of the Ametyst.”

Yet on social media some commentators raised questions, whether over compliance or enforcement of safety regulations. “That net will only catch you if you fall straight down,” one Facebook user commented under a photo of the Ametyst showing its ladder for gangway, which, together with other photos of gangways, accompanied the statement posted by the FMA. “If you fall a little sideways, you will most definitely plunge right into the sea,” the user added.


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