Oxygen Depletion in Enclosed Space

Stacks of containers in a storage area

The dangers of entering enclosed spaces on-board ships have been known in the shipping community for a number of years. As far back as the 1960’s the United Kingdom Department of Transport issues guidance on entering “Dangerous Spaces”. The trend of crew members being killed and injured within these spaces has not declined in the intervening years.

Despite safety campaigns, posters, books and increased awareness, seafarers continue to enter unprepared spaces or become a casualty when attempting to rescue a stricken shipmate in a dangerous space.

The animation below highlights the dangers of entering enclosed spaces and gives an example of recent accidents


To gain further insights into the dangers posed by oxygen depleted spaces our research team (Daniel C. Burke and Dr. Manhal Alnasser) have investigated exactly how fast oxygen depletes inside a confined space. Three different types of containment were considered:

  • Sealed containment. 
  • Open-vented containment.
  • A chain locker.

The results of our research can be found in this Oxygen Depletion in Enclosed Spaces Brochure.  Additionally, we have submitted our research for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

If you want to learn more about our research and how to safely enter enclosed spaces aboard ships please enrol for our free 90-minute online course. This course has been developed with funding from the Maritime Education Foundation (MEF).