In September 2016, one crew member was killed and four others seriously injured after a lifeboat fell from the world’s biggest cruiseliner, the Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, during a basic security drill whilst the ship was docked in Marseille. The lifeboat became detached with five crew members inside and fell from the fifth deck – a height of 10m (33ft).
In a similar incident in June the same year, one person died and three were injured during a routine rescue drill onboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway, when a rescue boat reportedly fell from its tethering.
Captain Anuj Velankar, P&I executive and Loss Prevention Advisor at the UK P&I Club, said a 2014 study showed that over a 10 year period, “incidents involving lifeboats and their launching systems had caused nearly 16% of the total lives lost by merchant mariners”.
So how can lifeboat and safety drills onboard ships of all kinds be made safer?
According to George Devereese of the UK P&I Club, speaking to the Maritime Journal, the answer lies in “a full audit, with an experienced auditor from the line who’s familiar with the up-to-date regulations and who understands the specific system on the vessel,” adding that “they will be getting into the lifeboat to run the test along with the regular crew” in the hope this would bolster confidence.
Understandably, crews have become hesitant about taking part in lifeboat drills due to the perceived safety issues. But avoiding the training altogether could result in a vicious cycle of personnel being unfamiliar with the equipment, putting lives in danger in the event it needed to be used for real.
Though drills are usually overseen by experienced, qualified seamen, it is imperative that the correct training is given to supervisors on each system and the particular equipment in place aboard a vessel, explained Captain Velankar. Crew who are experienced aboard one ship may not necessarily be familiar with another setup.
Maintenance is also key to reducing the chance of accident and injury. The poor maintenance of cables and equipment, whether as a knock-on result of untrained personal or caused by time restrictions and corner-cutting, should not be overlooked.
Whether aboard a cruise ship, chartered yacht or freight vessel, it is imperative that safety measures are adhered to and the correct protection is in place, including specially designed marine insurance. Talk to Insure-A-Boat for more information on protecting your crew.