Newspapers in France are reporting that one crew member has been killed and four other crew members were injured after a lifeboat fell from the Harmony of the Seas, which was docked in Marseilles, France.

According to 20 Minutes newspaper, five members of the ship’s navigation crew were on board during a drill when the lifeboat became detached and fell ten meters into the water. The newspaper reports that two of the crew members injured are in critical condition. The deceased crew members is reportedly a Filipino citizen.

Several years ago, the trade organization Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) announced that Harmony of the Seascruise lines were prohibited from raising or lowering lifeboats with crew members aboard. Many cruise lines have ignored this safety rule.

Eight crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill in 2013 on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew were killed and 3 were injured.

In July of this year, a rescue boat drill resulted in the boat falling into the water with four crew members from the Norwegian Breakaway while the cruise ship was in Bermuda. Two crew members were killed and two other seriously injured.

Between these two events, there have been several other lifeboat mishaps. In January of this year, a cruise ship tender boat on the Balmoral operated by Fred Olsen Lines malfunctioned, during a scheduled boat training drill while the cruise ship was docked in Funchal, Madeira. Fortunately, no one was injured. In August 2015, an excursion boat from the Costa Mediterranea apparently broke a cable while it was being lowered in Montenegro. Photographs sent to me shows what appears to be a lifeboat dangling on the side of the Costa cruise ship. In October 2014, a rescue boat on the Coral Princess was being raised on davits with two crew members aboard when a cable snapped and a crew member was killed.

It is currently unknown whether a cable broke or whether the lowering mechanism malfunctioned or was performed incorrectly. 

Several years ago, Cruise Critic published an article: Lifeboat Tragedy: Did Cruise Line Ignore Safety Guidelines? It quotes an expert on lifeboat drills: "Alan Graveson, Senior International Secretary of Nautilus the U.K.-based seafarers’ union, said: "I issued instructions seven years ago that preferably nobody should be in the lifeboat during a safety drill, and if that’s not possible then there should be a maximum of two people. We also contacted Captain Ben Lyons, who has sailed as an officer on both larger mega-ships and smaller expedition ships, to get an insider’s perspective on the incident. "Lifeboat drills are almost invariably considered one of the most dangerous parts of life at sea for a cruise," he told us in an e-mail. "There is a strong sentiment amongst many seafarers that lifeboats (through drills) have killed and injured many more people than they have saved."

CLIA has removed the language of the policy from its website, but you can review a cached version here ("Under this policy, for safety considerations, the loading of lifeboats for training purposes is to be performed only while the boat is waterborne and the boat should be lowered and raised with only the lifeboat crew onboard.") 


Photo Credit: By kees torn – UNION BEAR , Harmony of the Seas & EN AVANT 20.

  • Debbie

    When we were on the Allure of the Seas, they had a lifeboat drill while we were in port. When we came back to the ship one of the lifeboats was still in the water and we were delayed. Apparently the lifeboat could not be raised up again as something had broken. The captain had to call head office to see if we could leave it behind. This took hours and we were almost half a day late getting to our next port the next day. The lifeboat was left behind and it met back up with us in Florida at the end of our trip. We saw it on the back of a truck in port.

  • Iuri Nol

    Working on the harmony just a couples a months ago, I can honestly say that the harmony is simply not ready for any sort of operations of any kind… It should not be accommodating any guests and there shouldn’t be any crew members working until conditions are found appropriate. This accident does not suprise me a single bit, and I honestly hope that this is the last sad news I hear from this ship

  • Marie

    When are they going to be intelligent enough to stop lowering life boats with crew
    members in the boats…..

  • Mike

    Marie – It is not about (When are they going to be intelligent enough to stop lowering life boats with crew
    members in the boats…..) it is when is the international rules going to be changed so you are not forced to do it.

  • tito

    This is a practice of all captain’s. They always brake the roles and forsing the crew to enter in the life boats while the are lowering and lifting up.

  • Brett

    Makes no sense having nobody in the LB during an exercise….what happens in an emergency ???? Someone or some Safety body needs to review the entire LB deployment operation. Too many accidents happening during routine drills.

  • Robert

    “were prohibited from raising or lowering lifeboats with crew members aboard.” When conducting the 6 monthly full lifeboat loading test, yes.. Not for normal lowering and recovering of the boats. Read your own references before making statements that “Many cruise lines have ignored this safety rule.”

  • Question

    Aren’t those lifeboats supposed to be filled with 150 people and than lowered to the water in case of emergency. Yet you hear so many accidents with a handful of crew inside.

  • M

    Unfortunately there are more deaths by doing drills than by real emergency events. Lets pray for those that lost their lives working for the safety of all the passengers.

  • David

    First and foremost, my sincere condolences to the Filipino crew members family/friends at home and friends on-board the ship. I hope quick recovery/at least out of critical condition for others. As former Youth Manager of Celebrity Cruises, I am all for lowering life boats with manned crew. If any real emergencies occur, with these life boat drills, you have familiarity and practice, how to perform these dangerous duties quickly, effectively and safely. Imagine, if you were on the ship and no one ever got on the life boat and understand the exact procedure. Its like book smart VS life experience. You can only do so much knowing how to do them. Just like muscle memory, more you practice, more you are comfortable and confident. Its all about safety for guests as well as crew members. Again, I feel sorrow for the loss of fellow crew members and hope there are some kind of counselors to assist crew member who have been affected on-board.

  • Marie

    When are they going to be intelligent enough to stop lowering life boats with crew
    members in the boats…..

  • john

    Marie, These lifeboats don’t drive themselves. While we probably test them too often it has to be tested. This is international regulations all stated in SOLAS. Now if there was an emergency and one lifeboat malfunctioned because no one tested it everyone would be upset and charges would be brought forward. While there are too many lifeboat injuries across the maritime industry no one has come up with a better plan. This is not a cruise industry issue but a general maritime issue. Cargo ships workplace incident never make the news because most people don’t care.

  • Dan

    In order to conduct a proper drill. Meaning actually running the boat and leaving the ship crew members need to be onboard.

  • David

    To much training and to little maintenance, should be the other way around. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.

  • Sharon D

    So tragic that many crew members’ lives have been lost. What also bothers me is if these lifeboats are malfunctioning during drills, what’s going to happen to them when full of passengers during a real evacuation event?

  • Sylvia

    In the event of a disaster at sea, and the life boats must be used to disembark passengers to a life boat, are the life boats not filled up with passengers and then lowered? If this is the case, then why do they say that during a life boat drill that they should not be lowered with anyone in them. Doesn’t that go against the purpose of what a life boat is used for? Crew would normally load passengers onto a life boat and once filled, would then lower the life boat to the sea, so why do they say no one should be in a life boat during a drill? I’m confused.

  • Ad

    What about life boat lowering procedure, supervising deck officer, bridge officer coordination?!? Procedures vs human error factor…

  • willie parader

    they should have used the fall preventer, it is like a sling which is designed to keep the lifeboat attached to the hook encase the hook disengage premanture, we have been using that on cargo ship

  • Tim

    I understand that it is dangerous when lowering and raising these life boats, and accidents will happen. But wouldn’t you rather (I know no time would be fine) it happen in a drill with 2 people on board rather then when it’s filled with 30 or more passengers in an emergency? Or would you rather find out then that the lifeboats were defective? Cables shouldn’t snap with just 4 people on board, maybe they should be changed more often. Before I put my life on the line you better get in and put your life on the line. If you refuse then how do you expect us to get in? Like you never eat the food from a chef who refuses to eat what he cooks.

  • Omar

    I worked onboard a very large transatlantic liner for many years & when that ship first sailed we had crew drills that regularly involved the lowering of life boats with crew onboard. My job was working one of the very large and heavy hooks on the end of the winch that lowers the boat to the water. We were only made to do these drills maybe half a dozen times but I can tell you that it truly is a dangerous job and not one I enjoyed in the slightest. It did however give me invaluable knowledge & hands on experience of just how hard that would be in a real life evacuation. Without that experience, I strongly believe that a lot of crew members would not be able to perform the task under that amount of pressure. So for this reason I think full rehearsal drills are a very necessary but I also think that the industry has a responsibility to invest more time and resources into making the process safer for crew members.

    Incidentally, I always found the most dangerous part of lowering & raising the lifeboats to be trying to get the boat back onto the giant, & very heavy, hooks after the drill to enable it to be raised back up onto the ship. This basically involved using a pole to lean out of the rocking lifeboat & grabbing the thing as it swung past your head. On a slightly choppy day, if the boat dropped on a wave, the hook could shoot up a meter instantly and drag you out with it if you weren’t very careful. Obviously & thankfully, this wouldn’t be necessary in a real life scenario as the lifeboats wouldn’t be getting winched back up.

  • rowena ycong busa

    may i know sir the name of filipino crew who died in harmony of the seas accident?

  • Ritesh Fernandes

    More accidents happening during the safety drill which is really sad. We need to look in to what goes on in these drills. The safety duty assingned to a crew member and has it been checked by the concerned person incharge or the officer. This is where management plays a big role. Lowering of life boats and life rafts. I think every crew member should be knowledgeable about lowering the emergency life raft and life boats. This will definitely play an important role in the years to come. One small mistake and the risk the company is taking is huge.

    I would just like to bring to the notice of the HR department to include one more question about safety of the ship which is equally important to USPH standards as well as the job knowledge.

    Best Regards,
    Ritesh Fernandes.

  • John

    Rowena, His name is Ariel Leyson he was an assistant electrical engineer and working with royal for more than 10 years. He was previously on RH GR and JW. My sincere condolences to the family.

  • Terry Beagle

    On navy ships I served on we raised and lowered our ready lifeboats all the time with crew members in them. Perhaps these cruise ships need to perform more preventive maintenance on the lifeboats and their candles. During an emergency people on the cruise will need to use these lifeboats.

  • Lemuel

    It is ship master fault not the company.

  • G

    Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of safety line to stop the boats from falling?

  • David

    The last cruise I was on my, and hundreds of others, muster station was on deck five- well above the water line. In an emergency, he lifeboats need to be lowered loaded with people. The drills are necessary and crew need to be on them.

  • Adrian

    What about the manropes. We are using these manropes only for the drill purpose with the crew members stying on top of the canopy.

  • George

    All the drills are very dangerous.
    They should have FPD or locking pin which is always locked on drill. When the boat approach the water have to be manually released. That accident is a human fould. From another side they should follow the rules what we study on STCW courses for survival at sea. Exactly to lower the boat without crew on board on the drill.

  • Above is the link to the live version of the informtaion, to avoid using a google-cashed version.

    It only seems to talk about when they are filling a lifeboat to capacity, not the usual ‘lower, drive around and winch back up’.

    The boasts need to be tested bu surely they could be lowered to the water first and THEN the crew get onto them to release the hooks etc.

  • Kenny

    I don’t understand all the concern here about crew members riding the life boats up and down. Tenders serve double duty as life boats and tenders. At every tender port we have visited, ever, crew members ride the tenders up and down. On the larger ships, perhaps a hundred crew members ride the tenders up and down at each tender port. Do they want no crew members to ride the tenders anymore?

  • Dillon Eyre

    Sorry, in my previous comment the live link didn’t show the CLIA site…

  • Stefan

    Condolence to the family. I m just wondering… When you step into that boat, you basically trust the people who will lower it down, or the people who done maintenance on that boat, you trust them with your life… How can you trust your life to some people , that most of the times you don’t even know their names?

  • Iuri Nol

    Regarding my previous comment I’d also like to add that at one point while we were docked in Marseille, France a couple months back the ship delayed its departure from port due to technical issues on one of the life boats, being that one of the hocks was not working and not being able to lower the life boat, this made the captains and its navigational staff to prepare to have crew and guests disembark since there was the possibility of not having the LAS (life’s at sea) “agreement” to continue sailing. After a few weeks while docked in Mallorca, Spain we encountered the same issue and was again delayed departure. This is a problem with the ships manufacturing, as also the water pefrufication system has not yet been operational and the ship had to be filled with fresh water via tankers that came nearly every port in order for the ship to be operational and so that guests and crew could have water in their cabins and so on… This not even getting to the fact that after a few conversations in the crew bar with some of the STX crew that shared some information that the ship will be having STX members onboard for the next 5 (or more) years to complete the unfinished work…

  • Paul Kelly

    This is all down to poor procedures I have been at sea and also spent 26 years in the North Sea on Gas production platforms maintaining Lifeboats and changing Fall ropes without any accidents. Fitting certified maintenance pendants before any maintenance takes place. These lifeboats are designed and tested to take a full compliment of passengers in an evacuation by controlling a cantilever brake until the boat is in the water, then release the rope davits and sail to a safe distance from the ship or rig. It should be noted that the winch on the davits will not take a full compliment of passenges if trying to hoist back to the ship it was never designed for this that is why during hoisting and lowering for maintenance we had a maximum of 5 personnel

  • jerry jones

    I wish I could be besides you as you open those cute eyes.
    Would brush my fingers by your hair and lay your hands aside.
    Then I would say a prayer for today to protect you from falling.
    Lastly I would take your hand in mine and wish u good morning…..