Published on Monday, February 11, 2013

Lifeboat drills slammed after five die on Thomson cruise

Renewed calls for lifeboat drills to not include people have come following the death of five crew members on a Thomson cruise ship.

The incident took place during a safety drill on the Thomson Majesty while it was docked in Santa Cruz on La Palma.

The lifeboat fell into the water killing five members of crew and injuring three.

Nautilus International, the union for seafarers and maritime professionals, argues that more people get killed and injured during lifeboat drills than rescued by lifeboats.

Andrew Linington, head of communications, said: "This is just ridiculous. There have been dozens of fatalities in the last few years alone due to these drills.

"There are some inherent dangers - you are working from height, the equipment is not the same across all ships, operating manuals are poor and often not written in the language of those using it and the maintenance of the equipment is a major issue as it is exposed to the elements.

"These accidents are happening too much. The drills don't have to be about putting people in boats - if it was, it would include the passengers.

"The International Maritime Organisation has been moving on this issue but as ever in the shipping industry, it seems to move very slowly. There isn't a unified approach on it."

Thomson has confirmed that the three injured had been discharged from hospital and are back on board the ship in the Canary Islands.

It said it was awaiting confirmation of when the ship can continue with the cruise which it expected to receive later today. Around 2,000 passengers are believed to be on board.

In a statement it said: "Our thoughts are with the families of those involved.

"We are working closely with the ship owners and managers, Louis Cruises, to determine exactly what has happened and provide assistance to those affected by the incident. We are also working closely with all relevant authorities and will be co-operating fully with their investigations."

By Diane Evans

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  • Life boat drills a show of authority

    Having been a cruise professional since 1982, I have done thousands of lifeboat drills. I once dived out of a lifeboat from a height of about 10 metres as it was suddenly dropped 5 metres and smashed against the side of the ship, swinging inwards and tipping the crew into the water. Those who fell into the Bermuda waters were told off for doing so. It's a necessary drill however, there is zero need to have crew in the boat unless they are going to operate the boat and need the practice. Another health and safety practice, that although based upon need, is overseen by maritimers who have not changed their ways and office managers who think they know what is best for everyone! IMHO. Keith

    By Keith Nicol, Thursday, February 14, 2013

  • Defies logic...

    These tragic deaths have demonstrated inadequacies in the safety procedures and equipment on board the Thomson Majesty - calling for the drills to stop is ignoring the problem entirely. As someone who was evacuated via lifeboat under difficult circumstances, (M/S Explorer, November 23, 2007) I can attest to the need for regular updates and maintenance to safety equipment. Our lifeboats did ultimately perform as needed, but not without many problems along the way. The antiquated diesel pull-start engines took many tries to get going (I think one of them never did start and was towed by a Zodiac) and the protective 'bags' we were supposed to wear all had rusted zippers that stuck... the equipment was ancient but apparently the whole thing had been inspected while in dry dock prior to our cruise. Safety inspections and equipment checks must be performed regularly - and getting people into those lifeboats to do the checks seems like the only possible way to ensure that there are no issues when the situation requires their use. It is unspeakably sad that five lives were lost as a result of this drill, but if the same issue occurred with multiple boats as the result of an emergency, surely the death toll would have been much higher? If - as was true in our case - crew members are to be integral to any rescue, they must know how to use the equipment. Lifeboats and safety equipment must be maintained properly, and tested carefully - these deaths seem to be part of a much larger issue.

    By helen hewetson, Monday, February 11, 2013

  • Poor training and maintenance

    Rather than removing people from lifeboat drills more should be done to ensure adequate training and instruction with the particular equipment concerned. If crew members can not safely launch a lifeboat in the calm conditions of a harbour what hope do they have in a seaway. How many more people are going to loose their lives because of inadequate training and instruction? Obviously the cruise companies have decided it is not cost effective to train crew to a level where they can work safely. There are clear requirements in the Solas regulations regarding safety equipment but these seem to be circumvented when it comes to training and maintenance.

    By Graham Amiss, Monday, February 11, 2013

  • Surely...

    ...surely the union, together with H&S in general, should aim criticism at unsafe manuals, unsafe equipment / maintenance, lack of knowledge of staff of specific equipment on board? If a lifeboat+crew is not safe for a drill, it's no use in case of emergency either.

    By F-Bauke van der Meer, Monday, February 11, 2013

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