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Five crew dead in lifeboat drill accident in Canary Islands12th February 2013
Lifeboat falls 51 feet into sea after cable snaps during Thomson Majesty call in Santa Cruz de la Palma.
Lifeboat safety will inevitably come under renewed scrutiny after five crew members from the cruise ship Thomson Majesty were killed in the Canary Islands at the weekend, when a drop cable snapped during a drill, causing the lifeboat to fall more than 50 ft into the sea.
The cruiseship, operated byThomson Cruises and owned and managed by the Cyprus-based Louis Group, was berthed in the port of Santa Cruz, on the island La Palma.
A total of eight seafarers were inside the lifeboat at the time of the mishap, which occurred at about the height of the embarkation deck, as the lifeboat was being hauled back up after being lowered to the water.
It is the worst lifeboat casualty of recent years but comes on top of a record of previous incidents that have provoked concern.
The dead men included three Indonesians, a Filipino and a Ghanaian.
Two Greek chief officers and one Filipino seaman, who were the others caught up in the lifeboat accident, suffered relatively minor injuries. They were discharged from hospital and had rejoined the vessel by Sunday night.
The 40,876 gt vessel was built in 1992 bySTX Finlandshipyard and was bought by Louis three years ago fromNorwegian Cruise Line. It is the largest and youngest vessel in Louis’ fleet of seven ships.
It is classed by Det Norske Veritasand and insured by the West of England Shipowners’ P&I Association (Luxembourg).
About 1,400 people were on board the ship when the accident occurred at noon on Sunday, two days after the start of the week-long cruise. The ship had been due to depart the same afternoon, but 24 hours later it was still in the port of Santa Cruz.
A spokesman for Louis Cruises told Lloyd’s List that DNV and Malta, as the flag state, had been carrying out tests on the ship’s other lifeboats and lifesaving appliances.
In a statement, Louis said: “Our thoughts are with the families of those involved at this time. We are undertaking an investigation to ascertain what led to these tragic events.”
The company said it had informed all the relevant authorities and was co-operating with their investigations, but added that it was “inappropriate” to comment further at this stage.
Releasing its own statement,Thomson Cruises said: “We are working closely with the ship’s owners and managers, Louis Cruises, to determine exactly what has happened and provide assistance to those affected.”
Louis has been Thomson’s cruising partner for more than 20 years, chartering up to three vessels to the travel company, now a member of the TUI group, at any one time.
A second Louis-owned vessel, Thomson Spirit, is undergoing maintenance but is scheduled to begin its new season under charter to Thomson next month, with cruises in the eastern Mediterranean.
Although the cause of this accident will be the subject of investigations, the forward cable holding the lifeboat is reported to have broken suddenly.
The particular lifeboat is understood to have provided capacity for 150 passengers and weighed about 12 tonnes, underlining the additional severity of accidents involving passenger vessel lifecraft and tenders, which tend to be larger than those carried by cargo vessels.
Mishaps have previously occurred during lifeboat safety drills on all kinds of vessel and are a serious and continuing cause of concern.
In 2001, the UK’s Marine Accident and Investigation Branch issued a safety study that said: “For some time now, the MAIB inspectors have become increasingly worried by the relatively high number of accidents involving ships’ lifeboat launch systems, many of which have resulted in people being killed or injured. The MAIB suggests that anyone using a lifeboat, be it in a drill or a genuine evacuation, runs the risk of being injured or killed.”
The International Maritime Organisation’s Maritime Safety Committee amended regulations to the UN Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea regarding lifeboat release hook mechanisms in April 2011.
Under the amendments, owners were required to ensure that ships are equipped with safer on-load release mechanisms and replace existing release hooks that do not comply with the new Life Saving Appliances code by January 2019.
The amendments came under strong criticism from key shipping organisations such as BIMCO, which argued that the new measures were not progressive enough.