The MS Thomson Majesty is operated by Thomson Cruises. The picture shows the position of the 80's design orange covered motorised lifeboat (capacity 60 seated 150 standing). The white painted hull and the position of the two propellers suggest this is identical in shape and design to the upturned lifeboat featured on TV newscasts, showing the vessel which fell into the sea.
Five people, all identified as crew members, have been killed and three others injured after a twin screw motorised lifeboat fell from the MS Thomson Majesty cruise ship whilst docked in the Canary Islands.
|Was this the actual retaining steel cable that snapped ? |
Photo BBC News: Viewer Picture Jim McArthur
The incident took place at around 12noon during a routine safety drill while the ship, operated by UK-based Thomson Cruises, was docked in port on the island of La Palmas, Canary Islands
Julian Bray Marine Analyst in the UK, confirms that crew were taking part in a mandatory routine training exercise to load, launch, and recover lifeboats, complete a regular risk/ safety programme to ensure all crew members have had recent practical training. It also ensures the lifeboat release mechanism is working properly. The cruise ship concerned the MS Thomson Majesty was on charter to Thomson UK uses an earlier type of lifeboat release mechanism, requiring detailed knowledge of the controls activated in a strict sequence. Most cruise lines use the port at Santa Cruz for such exercises whilst they are docked, and the exercise usually fairlty routine. No passengers were involved at any time.
According to Canaries News, the lifeboat fell 20m from the ship into the sea, with early indications blaming a mechanical mishap for the incident.
Local officials said emergency services had been called to the scene where they discovered a lifeboat with occupants had fallen overboard from a cruise ship docked at the pier of Santa Cruz port in La Palma’.
According to local reports, three Indonesians, a Ghanaian and a Filipino died when the lifeboat fell from the ship, with two Greek nationals in a serious condition and a Filipino in a less serious condition.
All eight people involved in the incident are understood to be male, no passengers are thought to have been involved as this is a regular scheduled crew training event, The MS Thomson Majesty (formerly MS Norwegian Majesty) owned by Louis Cruises and chartered/operated by Thomson Cruises.
Originally ordered by Birka Line and named MS Birka Queen from the Wärtsilä Marine Turku Shipyard in Finland, but completed by Kvaerner Masa-Yards as MS Royal Majesty for Majesty Cruise Line.
In 1997 she was sold to Norwegian Cruise Line, cut in two and a prefabricated hull section inserted and the vessel lengthened by 33.76 m (110 ft 9 in) at the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany.
In a highly critical report issued by the Marine Accident Investigation Board (MAIB) entitled "Improving Evacuation Systems' Safety the MAIB spells out the perils associated with lifeboat depolyment :
"I didn't evacuate passengers using lifeboats simply because I was afraid that people would get injured. Instead, they were transferred through the car deck shell door into waiting tugs."
Such lack of confidence in lifeboat launching equipment among ships' masters and crews is widespread. They have a right to be. Scrutiny of data held by MAIB suggests that anyone using a lifeboat, be it in a drill or genuine evacuation, runs the risk of being injured or even killed. The lifeboat launching and recovery operation is the one activity that posses the highest risk to crew safety.
The MAIB database shows that over a 13-year period, 13 people were killed and 138 injured in 125 lifeboat accidents. Most accidents occur during the launching and recovery operation. The 13 lives lost represent 15% of all those killed in reportable accidents to the MAIB. These figures reflect only a small proportion of total accidents that have occurred worldwide. A global perspective indicates that more than 100 seamen were killed operating lifeboats during the 1990's.
This is an alarmingly high proportion of accidents. It is hardly surprising that an atmosphere of fear of lifeboat drills exists: a situation that does not contribute to the promotion of safety at sea.
The concern for safety in the lowering of lifeboats during emergency drill is clearly illustrated with the call to IMO for a change in the SOLAS requirement that specifies that during drills the lifeboat crew must be lowered with the lifeboat.
It is thought that the master should have the option to lower the lifeboat empty. This concern is a sad reflection on a system considered satisfying SOLAS requirements, yet is too risky to operate fully for training purposes.
The reality is that the removal of crew during launching benefits the master and management in their efforts to reduce risk to crewmembers being killed and injured. But the fact remains that, should a real emergency occur, passengers would be exposed to the same risk. Life-saving equipment, or installations, are tested to ensure fit for purpose. The risks to people should be no different, whether it is being tested or being used for real in an emergency.
There is equal lack of confidence of masters and crews involved in the launching and operation of fast rescue crafts (FRCs) and a reluctance to test them in the severe environment expected.
Incidents investigated show an extreme reluctance of masters to launch the craft in heavy weather. Masters are equally concerned with the safety of retrieving the craft back on board.
Over the last three years 24 accidents involving FRCs and injuries to crewmembers have been reported to MAIB Accidents. The number of accidents with these craft is much less than with lifeboats. However, this is probably because they are operated far less frequently than lifeboats.
Scepticism that emergency escape and embarkation systems can be tested safely is not confined to lifeboats and fast rescue craft.
The operation of suspending, inflating, people loading and lowering of liferafts is often avoided by surveyors and crews simply because they think the operation is too risky.
What underpins this lack of confidence in these systems? The maring industry, including IMO, sides with Jim Reason and others, who advocate that an accident is not caused by a single factor. It is caused by a variety of reasons.
They decry the past tendency to blame the accident on operator error. Controlling factors, which are often outside the operator's control, influence the operator's error.
Lessons learned from accident investigation show that operator error with emergency disembarkation and recovery systems is reduced significantly by better training, maintenance, procedures etc. The lessons also tells that good design is the barrier most likely to succeed to prevent accidents.
Deficiencies in design are the handicap that hinders masters' endeavours to ensure crew safety and to instill confidence in emergency embarkation and recovery drills.
The purpose of this discussion is to show that for these systems to operate safely and with confidence, they must be designed with the aim of making them inherently safe.
To achieve this, the design process must be managed effectively to ensure that the human factor is considered at design conception, and throughout all the design stages, including final installation and testing.
Emergency evacuation systems must be designed to support the people who are expected to use them.
Contributor: JULIAN BRAY, Media Expert, Aviation, Politics & Travel, Economics, Broadcaster & Journalist Julian Bray NUJ Life Member, Full EQUITY Member UK Landline: 01733 345581 Mobile: 07944 217476 ISDN2 +44(0)1733 555 319 (UK HOME ISDN 01733 555319) G722/APT-X Dual Codecs SKYPE: JULIAN.BRAY.UK