20 Crew Members Injured During Cruise Ship Lifeboat Drill

A newspaper in Finland is reporting that twenty crew members received injuries during a lifeboat drill aboard the Findlandia cruise ship operated by Eckerö Line in Tallinn.

The newspaper states that crew members suffered broken bones and sprained ankles, as well as friction burns caused by trying to slow their descent during the steep drop into a life raft. 

Unlike most lifeboat systems in which the crew will board the lifeboat and then descend into the water, the system on the Findlandia involves a chute which drops straight down to the life rafts in the water. It does not look much different than chutes which construction crews use in dumping Eckero Line  Findlandia Lifeboat Drillconstruction debris from upper floors into a dumpster on the street below.

You can see the system in the photograph to the left. It looks very dangerous.

The drill was suspended only when the Eckerö crew members refused to follow their colleagues down the chute.

”The exercise should have been called off as soon as the injuries came,” said a representative of a Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi.

A representative of the Finnish Seamen’s Union stated that the evacuation system used is "unsuitable and dangerous," although it was approved in the European Union.

 

Photo credit: D. Stenbäck / Trafi

Hat tip for story: CruiseInd and Cruisejunkie 

New CLIA Lifeboat Training Policy Insufficient to Prepare for the Next Cruise Disaster

The cruise industry trade organization, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), announced with great fanfare a new lifeboat training policy. This is a result of what CLIA is calling the cruise industry's "operational safety review" after the Costa Concordia disaster. 

Every six months, the CLIA cruise ships will conduct lifeboat drills.  The lifeboats will be lowered into the water either empty or with only a skeleton crew (probably one or two crew members) necessary to operate the life boat. 

The lifeboat itself will otherwise be empty. As USA TODAY explains:

Muster Station  - Lifeboat Chaos"The training will involve lowering a lifeboat into the water, filling it to capacity with crew members and then maneuvering it in the water to familiarize the crew to lifeboat operations. The crew will not practice lowering a fully loaded lifeboat."

The new policy is suppose ensure the public that the crew knows how to safely lower the lifeboats. But let's be clear what this "new" policy is and is not about.  

It is only after the lifeboat is lowered will it then be filled up with crew members (this is actually the same IMO policy which has existed for the past 4 years).  The lifeboat operator will then practice driving the loaded boat around for a while.  The crew will eventually get out.  Then the lifeboat will be raised back to the cruise ship empty.  

This means that there will be no training whatsoever in loading and then lowering a fully loaded lifeboat safely into the water. So when the next disaster strikes, that means that there is a 100% certainty that whoever is lowering your life boat has never practiced it while it is loaded.

It is hard to understand why the emphasis in the "new policy" is practicing driving the lifeboats around. Watch the Royal Caribbean video below of life boats from the Serenade of the Seas driving around and around. The video has wonderful music.  Its a beautiful day in Pointe Seraphine, Castries, St. Lucia.  The water is completely calm. What fun!

You will never see a real emergency in pleasant conditions like this. The last person overboard from the Serenade of the Seas occurred last week (largely ignored by the U.S. press and Royal Caribbean is staying mum).  A crew member went overboard in the Adriatic early in the morning in high seas with winds gusting up to 100 kilometers. The ship didn't even try and lower a lifeboat in those conditions. 

The problem with the Costa Concordia disaster was that the captain delayed ordering the passengers off the ship until the cruise ship listed to an angle where it was impossible to lower the lifeboat. There was chaos trying to round up and organize over 3,000 passenger into their designated muster stations, especially because there was no muster drill in the first place.

The "new" CLIA lifeboat drills don't mention crowd control issues, language issues or anything that might reasonably address the deadly confusion which took place on the Concordia.

There are no recommendations for simulation drills or intense training, while encountering a wide variety of emergencies and diverse simulated weather conditions.

Think if a cruise ship as large as the Oasis or Allure of the Seas needs to be evacuated, The Oasis has 18 lifeboats which can carry 370 passengers in each one. Getting that many people into the lifeboat in a timely manner and then lowering the boat safely into the water takes practice - something the "new" CLIA policy guarantees won't ever happen.

The truth of the matter is that some cruise lines have essentially discontinued lifeboats drills (actually lowering the lifeboats) because of the numerous injuries and some deaths during the drills. 10 years ago Royal Caribbean experienced a disastrous accident where numerous crew members sustained serious injuries.

There is a saying that most lifeboats injure or kill more passengers and crew than save lives.  Lifeboats can fall suddenly, get caught on the side of the ship or suffer malfunctions or failure of the cables and hardware.  Consider the incident in the video at the bottom which, although not involving a cruise ship, is similar to others incidents where cruse employees were injured.

    

 

 

 

 Photo Credit:  EPA via Telegraph 

Muster Madness - "Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety"

This week I ran across a really interesting article by Karen Wormald who is an award-winning business writer and author, as well as a contributing editor to PC Solutions.  Her work has appeared in many publications including, interesting enough, Cruise Travel. 

Ms. Wormald had some very critical observations about the muster drills during a Carnival cruise she went on after the Costa Concordia disaster.  Her article is below and is worth reading a time or two. The intriguing thing about Ms. Wormald is that, certainly compared to me, she is a fan of cruising and is sympathetic of the cruise lines which have faced bad press this year, writing:

Karen Wormald" . . . in reality, cruising is FAR safer than virtually any land-based vacation. But every time there’s an incident on a ship, the media goes into a frenzy. People get norovirus and food poisoning every day in a LOT of places we never hear about.

Costa Concordia certainly deserved all the bad press it got, but something like 13 million Americans cruise every year and experience only a tiny fraction of the crime and injury experienced by people on land . . . "   

I don't agree with Ms. Wormald about cruise safety in general, particularly norovirus (which is primarily caused by contaminated food and water on cruise ships), but that's not the point.

Read her article about the life boat drill aboard the Carnival Glory, Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety, and ask yourself whether Carnival is ready for the next Concordia type of disaster? Ms. Wormald was nice enough to let me re-print her article:   

Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety

"After Costa Concordia capsized in January, exposing slipshod safety practices that contributed to 32 fatalities, you’d think Costa’s parent, Carnival Corp., would be fanatical about safety now. Especially on Carnival line ships, whose Italian captains must overcome the shame of Concordia’s incompetent master, Francesco Schettino.

I just spent 6 days on Carnival Glory, and saw first-hand Carnival’s current safety measures.

My cabin TV welcomed me with a safety video on endless loop, with Captain [Italian Name] delivering the intro and closing. I must have heard a dozen times to look for crew members wearing green fluorescent caps in an emergency.

Glory was scheduled to sail at 5 p.m., with the lifeboat drill at 4:30 on Deck 4.

At 4:20, on Deck 8 I saw a crewman directing able-bodied passengers to elevators down to Deck 4 — it’s stairs-only in any emergency.

On Deck 4, this sign left the lifeboats’ exact location a mystery  . . .

Costa Concordia - Carnival Cruise Muster Drill

Part of the sign (below in yellow) was reproduced on walls throughout the ship, like it means anything . . .

Somebody finally opened the “Emergency Exit Only” door (forbidden for passengers), revealing the “secret” outer lifeboat deck.

This 952-ft. ship was divided into only 8 muster stations, 4 on each side, leaving wide open expanses with no signs (screw the near-sighted). Nobody knew where to go. At 4:40, a few young crewmen in orange vests (not green caps) began straggling in and herding us.

Costa Concordia - Carnival Cruise Muster DrillEach muster station was assigned multiple lifeboats, whose numbers were read to us later as an afterthought — as if anybody would remember them.

Now, let’s do the math: Glory holds 2,974 passengers and 1,150 crew, so each muster station must accommodate about 372 passengers and 144 crew (if they want to survive), or 516 souls in all.

I saw 2 crewmen at my station to handle that mob.

The drill/lecture was conducted from the bridge not by the captain, but by a young English-speaker. (Nor did the captain verbally preside over the 3 crew drills they presumably had during that voyage. I assume his Italian accent is considered a problem.)

On any other ship, an emergency signal consists of 7 short blasts followed by one long blast of the ship’s whistle.

Glory’s was 5 short, a long pause, then one more short, then one long.

The bridge voice kept saying drill attendance and our complete silence were mandatory. Then he’d go silent for so long, it seemed he’d forgotten us. In the meantime, we were just standing in silence, being told nothing on Deck 4.

Later I learned the protracted silences weren’t due to any sweep of the ship to get all passengers to the drill; I met a couple who stayed in their cabin. Nor was roll taken at muster stations to verify our presence. I’ve seen both procedures on other ships.

We didn’t wear life jackets, nor did anyone learn how to don and tie one because the crewman who demonstrated was standing in a dark area in the bow and made no effort to be seen. Lockers of life jackets lined the deck (locked, presumably, and I imagine rotsa ruck finding anybody with a key), but we were told to return to our cabins for our jackets in a pinch — because that worked so well for the obedient Concordia passengers whose corpses were found underwater in theirs.

The drill took 45 minutes, delayed sailing, and taught anybody NOTHING. If I hadn’t attended good drills on other ships, I’d have been irate.

Many passengers on Glory were taking their first cruise, and thank God it was uneventful, because if you don’t know how to save yourself on a Carnival ship, you’re doomed to a watery grave."  

Carnival's response:

Karen actually elicited a response from Carnival's CEO (something I have never received in my last thousand blogs) which you can read at this link

Cruise Industry's New Safety Drill Policy - Too Little, Too Late

Swamped from a tide of bad publicity following the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise industry today announced a change to its safety drill policy.  The new policy?  Hold your breath:

All cruise lines will begin to provide a safety briefing to the passengers before the vessel sets sail. 

That's it?  Why wasn't this the law a hundred years ago, after the Titanic sank?

This should convince even the most hard core cruise fan that there is something seriously amiss Costa Concordia Cruise Chaosin the world of cruising when almost a month after the Concordia disaster, the cruise lines have finally proposed such a basic safety policy.

This should also reveal how lax the policies are under the International Maritime Organization ("IMO").  The IMO rules (suggestions I say) suggest that cruise ships can wait up to 24 hours after passengers embark to hold a safety briefing.  It's difficult to justify such an unsafe policy which undoubtedly caused or contributed to deaths of some of the Concordia passengers.  But what can you expect from an United Nations organization?  

The cruise industry has announced this simple common-sense policy with great fanfare.  USA Today's pro-cruise blog CruiseBlog quotes a cruise agent praising the new policy which was revealed in a joint statement by the Cruise Lines International Association, the European Cruise Council and the UK"s  Passenger Shipping Association. 

Notwithstanding the new cruise line voluntary policy, the IMO "rules" still permit waiting until 24 hours to have a muster drill.  And if the cruise lines don't follow their own voluntary agreement?  There is no consequence. 

Just what the public needs, a trust-us promise from an unregulated cruise industry which should not be trusted.  

Holland America Crew Member Killed In Life Boat Mishap

A 29 year old crew member died during a botched life boat training exercise in New Zealand today. 

According to newspapers in New Zealand, the accident occurred when crew members from Holland America Line's Volendam cruise ship were practicing life boats drills.  One of the wires attaching the lifeboat to the cruise ship snapped, throwing the two HAL crew members into the water in Lyttelton Harbor.  One of the crew members was rescued, but the other man who was wearing heavy clothing and boots went under water and did not reappear.  The crew members were reportedly not wearing a life jacket.

HAL has not released the name of the deceased crew member. 

January 9, 2011 Update:

We received a comment (below) from the Medical Officer on the HAL cruise ship, expressing his/her condolences.  We appreciate hearing from cruise line like this.  It shows compassion.  This is the first time in 500 blog articles that a cruise line has posted a comment on our blog following a crew member death or injury. 

A newspaper in New Zealand has a follow up article on the crew member death - "Liner Crew Traumatized by Shipmate's Drowning" - indicating that the cruise ship's 600 crew members were "obviously traumatised by the whole thing . . .  they all know each other pretty well, so they are quite upset."