Following the death of two port workers last night (April 7), the Maldives Ports Workers Union (MPWU) has said that staff had repeatedly complained that the boat and the crane involved were unsafe.
Port workers, including the winch men, had reportedly complained that the boat concerned was not safe and that the rollers (a part of the crane) had not been serviced.
Mohamed Nashid, 32, from Kudafary in Noonu atoll and Ibrahim Shareef, 36, from Malé were both killed when the crane’s wire snapped while loading a container onto the boat. The crane’s operator, Imran, fainted on seeing the incident and suffered minor injuries as a result.
Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) has said that all safety requirements had been met, and that the port adhered to international safety standards.
Head of the MPWU Ibrahim Khaleel has said, however, that “employees are in a state of fear.”
“MPL has failed to address any complaints, and furthermore blacklists any employees who complain claiming they are against the government and the management.”
“We have not yet been able to identify who should bear responsibility for the accident,” stated Khaleel, adding that the Transport Ministry must bear some responsibility as it has to do routine inspections on the vessels.
CEO of MPL Mahdi Imad said at a press conference today that all port staff are insured and trained under ILO’s port training. The ships and cranes are checked once a year, he noted, and when the containers were being unloaded all safety requirements were met.
The ship, named the Morning Viship, had been travelling from Cochin, India, where it had reportedly been shored and renovated.
According to Khaleel, the container fell while a crane was loading it ontothe boat. Reports stated that a piece of the crane’s equipment cracked, causing a flying piece of metal to strike the two MPL staff below, one on the head and the other on his back.
Mohamed Nashid, father of two, was killed instantly from the impact, suffering massive head injuries. Meanwhile, Ibrahim Shareef – a father of three – died while being treated at IGMH for severe skull and back injuries.
The crane operator Imran, fainted upon seeing the accident, with authorities struggling to remove him from the controls as he remained unconscious for an hour after the incident. He suffered minor injuries, and was taken to the ADK hospital for treatment.
Additionally, MPL Cargo Department General Manager Mohamed Hashim contended that such accidents were rare at the Malé business port with just four in MPL’s history. Safety classes and training were conducted regularly for MPL staff, he added.
While Imad and Hashim insisted that safety measures were up to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards, newspaper Haveeru has reported an unnamed MPL staff as claiming that mandatory safety officers were not present last night when the incident occurred.
“Safety officers came to the scene of the incident after more than 30 minutes. And ILO standards state that everyone at the scene must be given counselling after such a serious incident. But nothing like that has been done either,” the anonymous employee was quoted as saying.
The MPWU also contended in a press release today that none of the previous incidents were adequately investigated and that no corrective measures were taken. The union called on authorities for full investigation and to provide compensation to victim’s families.
Hashim said the transport authority and the marine police have launched an investigation, and that MPL operations are suspended until tomorrow while Police have cordon off the business port compound for their investigation.
In an appeal to the public, the Police have appealed to people not to share the victims’ dead bodies on social media. “Such acts deepen the pain of the victim’s families and friends,” the police stated.
MPL’s Imad said that work had been suspended today for an investigation, and will restart at 7:30am tomorrow morning. He confirmed that the MPL will bear all the costs for the two men’s children until they are 18.