Thursday, February 20, 2014



PHOTO: U.S. Navy

The Los Angeles Times has revealed the names of the two security officers who were found dead aboard the MARESK ALABAMA. It has also revealed that both were former U.S. Navy SEALS. To our maritime investigations trained ears the most revealing passage in the article is this:

"Jeffrey Reynolds and Mark Kennedy, both 44, were discovered dead by a colleague who went to check on Kennedy late Tuesday afternoon while the ship was moored in Port Victoria. No cause of death was given and an investigation is underway.
A.P. Moller-Maersk said in a statement, "The cause of the death for both men is part of the ongoing investigation, but it was not related to vessel operations or their duties as security personnel." (emphasis ours) Reynolds and Kennedy worked for Trident Security Firm USA, which  identified them as former Navy SEALs."

Our analysis: If indeed both men were found dead in close proximity of each other as the reports seem to indicate but don't state, and if investigation has already ruled out that their deaths were related to security matters or their routine security jobs aboard we think it is more probable than not that they succumbed to what we call a "Compartmental entry mistake".  Many ventilated compartments and voids are found on large ships. These can present a variety of breathing hazards to the unwary.

  One of the most common is simply oxygen depletion in long closed un-ventilated compartments. We have seen this scenario far too many times on drilling ships. One man enters a long closed void without checking for oxygen content and succumbs to the low oxygen level falling unconscious to the deck. Another watching from just outside the compartment watches the event and suspects a heart attack and enters intent on rescue, and succumbs. We have actually seen as many as three bodies in a single event on Gulf of Mexico drilling vessels. We don't necessarily buy into the A.P.Mollar-Maersk claim that the deaths were not work/ duty related. All ships personnel these days are taught to be on the look out for stowaways. The deceased security officers may have thought they heard a noise in a normally closed, un-ventilated compartment. Unaware of the atmospheric hazard and untrained in compartmental entry hazards ( there is a single day course called "ship yard competent person" that would improve the safety of all ship board personnel if everyone took such a course) they entered intent on confirming or denying the presence of a stowaway. 

 Investigation of stowaway suspicions are not based on duty hours, or routines.   Crew men investigate upon detection of suspect noises or other indications. Many noises travel through ship structures and emerge in compartments quite distant from their point of origin. If these deaths are the result of a compartmental entry mistake ( due to under training) there was no stowaway in the compartment if the atmosphere couldn't support life.  So there was no evidence of foul play. These types of accidents are the most common cause of finding more than one crewman both of which were in apparent good health dead in close proximity to each other with no signs of foul play aboard ships. We aren't saying that this is what happened since the investigation is still underway. But we note this is an all too common cause of death among merchant seamen and if this is the cause here, the celebrity status of the ship itself could help draw attention to the problem. The problem could be effectively eliminated by adding a compartmental entry hazards section to the mandatory STCW required fire fighting training of merchant crewmen based on the existing standards of instruction for the often OSHA required "SHIPYARD COMPETENT PERSON" course. 

To read the full story in the Los Angeles Times click here: 

Los Angeles Times 



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