Articles Tagged with Lifeboats

MIAMI, Florida–Over the years, I have seen numerous accidents, many tragic, involving the lifeboats on cruise ships. In this particular incident involving Grandeur of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, fortunately nobody was on board the rescue boat. According to reports, one of the lifeboats broke loose and capsized when the cruise was docked in the port of Charleston, South Carolina. It is fortunate nobody was injured or killed.

lifeboat-300x226There have been several cases involving catastrophic injuries and death where a lifeboat that was being hoisted or lowered with a davit system plummeted to the water. Serious concerns as to the type of system, and the poor procedures regarding testing and inspections, as well as maintenance, have surfaced. Several of the cases involved the breaking of what is called the fall wire, which breaks upon the rescue boat reaching its top position and over exerting pressure on the wire over time. There is a device called a limit switch which is supposed to automatically stop the rescue boat or lifeboat from reaching its top position and over exerting pressure on the wire. It is this limit switch that has been reported to fail on multiple occasions, calling for immediate actions to address the problem, including replacing the davit and limit switch system.

In addition, the procedures of allowing crew members to ride in the life boat from the stowed position of the boat at its top level, almost 8 decks high, has been questioned, as this is very dangerous. However, despite warning of these dangers, cruise ship companies continue to employ this procedure, and rescue boats continue to plummet into the sea upon the fall wire breaking, resulting in needless catastrophic injuries and deaths.

lifeboatThere is a big problem with rescue boats and lifeboats on board cruise ships. Although they are designed and intended to save lives, they too often result in losing lives due to mechanical failures. I previously reported about the tragic incident on the Norwegian Breakaway that occurred on July 20, 2016 in Bermuda. During a rescue boat drill on board the ship, the lifeboat broke from its tethering, falling into the sea. It has sadly been reported that another crew member, Ben Buenaventura of the Philippines, has died as a result of this tragic lifeboat accident. The crew member, after being in the intensive care at Jackson Memorial Hospital here in Miami Florida, passed away from his injuries.

The lifeboat on the Norwegian Breakaway crashed 50 feet from the upper deck into the seas. Under the maritime law, this constitutes unseaworthiness because obviously a rescue boat or lifeboat does not break away and fall 50 feet to the ocean if it is operated properly and in proper condition, unless there is a faulty design.

I have handled many of these types of lifeboat cases resulting in injuries that were not life-threatening, to catastrophic injuries such as paralysis, to cases resulting in death. These cases typically involve a life boat safety drill with crew members on board the life boats. However, these are the same boats that would be used to evacuate passengers in the case of a serious incident on board a cruise ship. Therefore, it is very alarming that there are so many reported accidents involving lifeboats and rescue boats on board cruises. There is clearly something wrong with the design of these boats, and the mechanisms utilized to lower and raise them. Of course, maintenance issues as well as procedure is often times an issue.

lifeboatI have previously written about lifeboat accidents, safety boat accidents, and other types of rescue boat accidents, occurring with frequency on cruise ships. The most recent catastrophe has occurred on Royal Caribbean’s brand-new mega cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas. Unfortunately, I have handled many of these type of cases ranging from minor injuries to fatalities, as well as cases where the accident resulted in paralysis. Other lifeboat and rescue boat accidents have resulted in serious physical and psychological injuries.

I have determined that these accidents are occurring because of the faulty designs of the major safety equipment, inadequate maintenance, and a lack of proper procedures for conducting the safety drills. We had previously written about Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world. It measures about the length of four football fields, and is longer than the height of the Eiffel Tower, carrying 6,780 passengers and 2,100 crew members.

Although this is a brand-new cruise ship, apparently the lifeboat failed during an attempted lifeboat safety drill, breaking loose from its apparatus, falling 33 feet (10 meters) into the sea, resulting in the death of one 42- year-old Filipino cruise ship crew member and four others catastrophically injured.

lifeboatLifeboats are obviously designed to save lives, not to take lives. However, I have sadly represented numerous crew members who have been catastrophically injured or killed during a lifeboat or rescue boat safety drill, when the boat has broken from the wires lifting or lowering the boat, or there has been a failure of the mechanism used to lift and lower the boats.

The recent catastrophic incident happened on the Norwegian Breakaway, a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise ship. It is ironic that the name of this ship is Breakaway because the life boat broke away from its tethering and plummeted to the water. According to reports, on July 20, four male crew members were onboard a lifeboat during a routine safety drill when the boat fell into the water. The accident, which occurred  while the ship was docked in Bermuda, left all four crew members injured. One of the crew members, Diogenes Carpio, was found floating in the water with several broken bones. He passed away at the hospital shortly after. Exact details as to why this tragedy occurred are still unclear.

I have seen a problem with the mechanism on the lifeboats, including what is called the limit switch, which is supposed to stop the raising of the boat at a certain point in order to avoid stress on the wire cables. I have also seen these type of incidents occur due to lack of appropriate maintenance, including lack of proper inspections of the lifeboats and their apparatus. I know one cruise line has recognized the need for a fleet-wide change of the type of apparatus utilized to raise and lower the lifeboats or rescue boats. It is unfortunate that it takes a death or serious injury in order to get the cruise line to pay sufficient attention to such an important life-saving device.

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