The 59-year-old, named locally as Bob Harrison, was supervising the loading of steel tubes into the hold of a cargo ship, the Bright Ocean, at the PD Ports-run Irvine’s Quay, in Ferry Road, Hartlepool , when he fell down a hatch.
He landed on the steel floor of the ship’s hold, suffering spine and head injuries.
Despite the efforts of firefighters, paramedics and a doctor flown in by the Great North Air Ambulance, he died shortly after his arrival by helicopter at The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough.
The ship’s crew alerted emergency services at 7.30pm on Sunday. A doctor was lowered into the hold, where he treated the injured man before he was put into the air ambulance and taken to hospital.