homson Majesty photographed in 2007, while being operated by NCL.

Thomson Majesty photographed in 2007, while being operated by NCL. Image: Wikipedia

Update 3: We spoke with a lifeboat industry insider today about the specifics of the lifeboat system that ultimately killed 5 sailors. Preliminary investigations are pointing to a failure of the lifeboat hoisting cable.

A failure of one side of the hoisting cable, our source notes, would have resulted in the downward swinging of the lifeboat as the entire load of the lifeboat was taken up by the other lifeboat davit arm and cable.  The combined dynamic load of the swinging lifeboat and the now doubled load on the other lifting cable may have caused it to part, resulting in the uncontrolled and upside-down fall of the lifeboat.

An accidental, or intentional release of the hook would have resulted in the lifeboat falling directly downward, while remaining upright.

In 2011, a Holland America cruise ship’s lifeboat fell uncontrollably when the winch used to raise the lifeboat did not stop when it came to to full hoist, causing the cable to snap.  In that case, the operator of the lifeboat davit was improperly relying on an emergency stop device to trigger the winch to stop hoisting when it reached full hoist.  In short, failure of the emergency stop device resulted in catastrophic failure of the system.

Update 2: On February 10th, the world’s largest cruise industry association, Cruise Lines International Assocation (CLIA), issued the following statement:

On behalf of the global cruise industry, CLIA expresses its deepest sympathies to the families of those crewmembers affected by the accident involving the Thomson Majesty.

The safety of passengers and crew is the cruise industry’s highest priority – nothing is more important. CLIA’s mission is to promote policies and practices that foster a safe and secure environment for the millions who sail on cruise ships every year – a focus that is reflected in the cruise industry’s exceptional safety record. Deaths from this kind of incident are extremely rare in the cruise industry – and have become rarer with each passing decade – as safety-related technology, processes and training have become more sophisticated and cruise ship safety is now better than ever.

The industry takes incidents such as this extremely seriously and is committed to continuously reviewing and improving safety measures in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency, as well as flag and port States around the globe.

Update 1: Reports indicate that the lifeboat fell approximately 65 feet to the water, landing upside down. The five killed and three others injured were aboard the lifeboat when it was being launched and fell. The cruise ship is the Thomson Majesty,

Those killed are believed to be three Indonesians, a Filipino and a Ghanaian, Reuters has reported. None of the 1,498 passengers on board at the time were involved in the accident.

The Maltese-flagged MS Thomson Majesty is now owned by Louis Cruises.  

In a statement, Thomson Cruise said the following:

Thomson Cruises can confirm there was an incident involving the ship’s crew during a safety drill on board Thomson Majesty, in La Palma, Canary Islands yesterday at 11:50am local time.

We can also confirm that there have sadly been five crew fatalities and three crew injuries. All three have been discharged from hospital and are back on board the ship. 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 are co-operating fully with their investigations.

As the authorities are currently conducting their investigations, we are awaiting confirmation of when the ship can continue with the cruise. We hope to receive this this morning and will advise customers as soon as we have an update.

Earlier: 

By Patricia Laya

(Bloomberg) — Five people died and three were injured when a lifeboat dropped from a docked cruise ship operated by TUI AG’s Thomson during an emergency drill in the port of Santa Cruz de La Palma, in the Canary Islands.

All of the people involved were crew members, a spokeswoman for the ministry of public works said by phone, asking not to be identified in line with government policy.

The three injured are males in their early 30s, two of whom suffered mild concussions, said a police official on the island, who corroborated the details of the accident. The injured were taken to a hospital on the island of La Palma.

The cruise ship was operated by Thomson Cruises, the police official said. Thomson Cruises is a division of TUI Travel Plc, a majority-owned unit of Germany’s TUI. A message left at TUI Travel outside office hours wasn’t immediately returned.

Members of the national police and civil guard were called to the scene of the accident, according to the ministry spokeswoman.

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg.
File Photo. Image (c)  Nightman1965/Shutterstock

File Photo. Image (c) Nightman1965/Shutterstock

In September 2012, the Cruise Lines International Association – of which Louis Cruises is a member – voluntarily adopted a policy in response to the Costa Concordia disaster requiring that crews conduct test launching and full loading of lifeboats at least once every six months for cruise ships with a crew sizes of three hundred or greater

Under the new policy, CLIA states that the full loading of lifeboats for training purposes is to be performed only while the boat is waterborne and, for safety considerations, the boat should be lowered and raised with only the lifeboat crew onboard.

Got a tip or photos? Email: tips@gcaptain.com 

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    • David T

      From photographs it show the fall wire failed and parted. Not hook failure.

    • Chef Gy

      people involve know the system. it’s just that there are some faults that we are not expecting.On this situation a wire parted while lowering the lifeboat. During the drill crew should not be on the life boat while lowering it to avoid the accident that have had happened before in some other ship.

  • nick.petrou

    Been as active seaman for the last 37 years i have seen more accidents and more deaths with these lifeboats
    than lifeboats saving lives.The whole system has to be changed.Private technical companies have to take care technically the boats so the crew will do nothing and when the time comes for the drill the boat will be coming down of the davits only till the embarkation deck.Other things is only aspirin to the cancer.We ll be crying for more victims at the near future.My deepest sympathy to the families of the victims.

  • Abdul Kader Shaaban

    So tragic that these incidents still happen, though every now and then they come with new rules. There should be a way to have these life boats readily used or drilled without human interference, like have them in special compartment at ship’s aft, since present arrangements have never prevented accident from happening.
    My sencere condolence to the families whose members have been affected by this and previous tragic accident.

  • Damn Yankee

    “Fall Prevention Devices” or FPD’s as the IMO is prone to calling them are on their way. I suggest everyone who sails, launches lifeboats for exercises, or has a managerial position onboard PUSH THE COMPANY to buy them now!! These tragedies will be a thing of the past once everyone knows how to use these Fall Prevention Devices properly and they only cost a couple grand. Not much when you think about the cost of a person’s life, no?

    • Kamin

      FPD – great; I’ll look for them. Thanks for the tip. We take all the precautions including no crew inside when coming back up, but there’s always room for improvement.

    • David T

      Your a foolish sheep just like all the others. FPD’s are not the answer. They were fitted to the Christoph Colomb and didn’t stop that boat falling and taking lives.
      In this case the fall wire parted so explain to me how a FPD would have worked in this case.
      Unfortunately like you many others have limited knowledge and this limited knowledge kills.

      • Damn Yankee

        You are correct that a FPD will not save you if the wire fall parts, but the releasing gear is typically the weakest link in the launching evolution. Nothing will save you from a wire parting, but some serious preventative maintenance. Does this have anything to do with SOLAS doing away with the mandatory “end for ending” of the lifeboat falls every two years in favor of a 5 year replacement with no end for ending? Did the wire jump a sheave, jam on the cheek plate, flatten and part? Was the wire manufactured in a substandard fashion with a fictitious mill cert? Before you jump to calling someone a foolish sheep, think about a few more angles. FPD’s may not be perfect, but they are at least an attempt to improve the safety of these “lifeboats.” Every time I ride down in my Chinese made knockoff of a Schatt Harding boat, I’m more worried about the releasing gear than my wire fall that I watched take a 5 ton load test in the shipyard.

  • http://norsafe.com Thomas

    Tragic..Seems all accident happens to be older type of system and all this can be prevented with updated lifeboat system
    and crew train
    ing carry out.

    • Peter Noivo

      That system exists now for at least 20 years!!!! What happened and I wasn`t there, was that an INCOMPETENT member of the Crew, didn`t put the hook on the right position, and didn`t double check if it was on the `Green`position, giving the Ã’K`to the other Incompetent Master of the `Life Boat`!!!!!

      • David T

        Again another numpty giving an uneducated answer.
        The FALL WIRE parted you moron so how is that the fault of an incompetent crew member.
        You are the only incompetent I see here.

        • Allan

          If a hook is not connected properly and fails, that end of the lifeboat will drop, leaving it dangling on the other wire rope. Since the falls can only support the lifeboat when horizontal with its weight on both wire ropes, it is no wonder that in a hook failure the other wire rope parts. This was likely the case here, especially given the inverted final position.

          Failure of on-load release hooks is not terribly uncommon, and is not always a case of poor training – many designs of hook simply don’t work very well or are prone to wear/corrosion causing them to fail easily. The best solution might be a standardized design.

          • Damn Yankee

            I forget the name of the design, but some enterprising seaman in England designed a “ball and socket” type releasing gear system. He was trying to get it approved, but that’s where the story ended. It was a really interesting take on the “on load” design. No real moving parts, just a ball that fit in a socket and some special way of releasing it that was as fail proof as any modern design I’ve seen.

  • Tim Lutz

    I read on another site(BBC news) that the accident was from a failure of the cable lowering the lifeboat.
    If true, the seaman accused of improper connection of the “hook” is off the hook and the procedure for inspecting and replacing the cable is clearly responsible.

    • Peter Noivo

      No Seaman touches those cables!!!!!! Only to put grease on them!!!!! Any changes or maintenance are done from a recognized external company!!!!! I’ve been on both sides, and I know what I’m talking about!!!!! Any other “Bull Shit” here is a LIE!!!!!!!!

  • J.

    One of them was my uncle. So sad.

  • http://yahoo.com rod de la cruz

    there must be toolbox talk,reverse toolbox talk,risk assessment to be carried out prior to do the job and must have be additional anti fall preventing device as to prevent falling of lifeboat in case the wire parted….these must be done and strictly imposed with additional work aloft permit….

  • koko9

    Regulation is not the root cause of such incident.
    Until 2004 SOLAS stated as –
    “…, each lifeboat shall be
    launched with its assigned operating crew aboard and manoeuvred in the
    water, …”
    However, then, changed the text amended as –
    “…, each lifeboat shall be launched, and manoeuvred in the water by its assigned operating crew,…”
    It is clear who is responsible!

  • http://GreatEarthNavigation.Com Captain Robert Scott

    It is a complicated procedure – a lot more complicated than it appears. I wonder how difficult it must be to train a crew of different nationalities with different languages? I have never heard of a wire parting. In fact, I don’t remember checking the wires before but it should be done.

    My sympathies,

    Captain R. Scott

  • serif

    It is so sad that lifeboats are really LÄ°FEboats. They cause you to loose your life rather than save. Since the beginning they are useless after some beaufort weather condition lets say 3-4. They should change the whole design and understanding of lifeboat and those idiots in ruling positions should enforce of new designs. Some thing that can really save lives not a theatrical show. I suggest accommodation space as a whole should be designed as a lifeboat that can detach from the ship when in danger with enough power engines for propelling, heating, lighting, airconditioning etc. with satisfaction of all needs of seamans inside.

  • Stanislav Palapeshkov

    How many people is going to die into these “lifeboats”.
    Every drill with those is just everything but not safe .
    hope somebody will stop that, I have seen captains on cargo vessels doing it every week just like that …..to keep the crew busy
    http://www.seajobs.bg/

  • Gennady

    First of all my deepest sympathy to the families of the seamen died and some answers on the questions and comments. The life boats and life boats launching devises designs of all types are safe if proper maintenance was done and crew was proper trained. Latest new Regulations require, for cruise ship, annual LSE maintenance to be done by shore professionals that very serious improved the condition of life boats and L/B davits. What about wire condition – they need to be replaced for new ones every five years with ends turn over within this period of time. Therefore cruise industry actually “need no” new additional equipment or paper work – just follow up the present Regulation. And, practically, all life boats concern accidents are the result of poor maintenance and lack of crew training. It is not a secret that many captains try to minimize life boats operations in order to avoid any problem and, as a result, lack of maintenance, just paper work. Also unprofessional advises to launch the boats with no crew members on board? And how crew will know how to operate the boats? By watching movies? How to know if boat can room assigned number of passengers and will not fall down when everybody will board one on embarkation deck? Lifeboat launching procedure need to be routine for crew and all parts of LSE need to be in regular work and under permanent crew control – only these can be a guarantee of safety when drills or emergencies.

  • deckland

    its a fact that life boats kill more people then they save.when was the wires and falls last inspected and renewed.as for incompetent crew i dont buy that at all.i thought MCA banned launching of lifeboats with people inside because this isnt the first accident where meb have been killed and sadly it wont be the last either.

  • Chris Carver

    Last august 2012 my wife and i were on deck 9 of the Thomson Majesty in an outside cabin in the front half of the ship.We had 2 big windows and just outside of them were one of these lifeboats.We remarked then that the mechanisms holding it in place either side looked like they had seen better days.We were on the ship for 2 weeks and for 3 mornings they had workmen hammering away at the lifeboat directly outside our window. Condolences to all the families of these people.RIP…

  • Kayr

    Anyone know of the lifeboat and davit maker? I feel sorry for the last servicing company. Anyway FPD wont help if the wire snapped. FPD is used to secure the lifeboat from falling if the hook give way. Wonder if the fire wall has been renewed during the docking?

    • David T

      Lifeboat appears to be a Waterman 393 (which is a Schat-Harding brand) in Davit Company MP davits (which is also a Schat-Harding brand)

      • Den

        I was a passenger on the ship and boarded just after the accident. It was very sad and my sympathy goes to all the families conserned.
        Although the wire cables appeared to be well greased where it is visible, It was not the case where it goes around the puleys at the top of the launching mechanism. It looked impossible to grease that part of the cable unless the life boat was lowered. I ASSUME that this is where the cable snaped.
        I must add that the Thompson staff delt with this emergency with the passengers very efficiently.

  • leoj

    when im still in a cruise ship…we are having a lifeboat drill.the ship is still brand new from germany and that time it was snowing.all parts of the lifeboat were hard frozen..as my crewmate released the safety hook from the belt..it suddenly released and the lifeboat and us swung overboard.banging over everyone inside the boat..it was so scary,we almost thrown overboard due that quick released..thank god we are still alived!:-D

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