Nautilus has expressed concern over an incident in which five seafarers died during a lifeboat drill onboard the cruiseship Thomson Majesty in the port of Santa Cruz de la Palma in the Canary Islands.
The men — three Indonesians, a Filipino and a Ghanaian national — died and three others were injured when a drop cable reportedly snapped as the lifeboat was being recovered from the water, causing it to plunge more than 50ft into the sea.
The incident onboard the Maltese-flagged ship is the latest in a long list of similar accidents, with research showing that as many as 15% of all merchant seafarer fatalities involve lifeboat drills. Investigations are expected to focus on the condition of the fall wires, davits and on-load release hooks and the ease with which the wires could be greased.
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson commented: ‘We are deeply shocked to see yet another lifeboat accident leading to loss of life and injuries, and express our sympathies to all affected by the incident.
‘The dangers associated with lifeboat drills are well known, and there is now extensive evidence to show the scale of fatalities arising from accidents. In the light of this, Nautilus has consistently advised members not to be in lifeboats when they are being raised or lowered, unless strops are in place.
‘This is an issue that we have raised directly with companies and at the International Maritime Organisation, and we believe there is a need for much more concerted action to address design shortcomings. It is not only an issue of maintenance and training — it is a question of procedures,’ he added. ‘It is also time to have some more radical thinking about the whole concept of lifeboats and to examine the potential of alternative evacuation systems.’
Bjorn-Erik Kristoffersen, the International Transport Workers’ Federation representative on the IMO’s lifeboat working group, said the ‘sad and awful accident’ underlined the risks that seafarers face every day and demonstrated the ‘burning need’ for progress on the issue of lifeboat safety. ‘In addition, the flag state, Malta, must quickly and fully investigate this accident and provide a clear report on it,’ he added.
Built in 1992, Thomson Majesty is managed by the Cyprus-based Louis Group. It is understood that flag state and classification society representatives were onboard the 40,876gt vessel at the time of the accident.