The NTSB has been urged to look into the Anthem of the Seas’ nightmare cruise earlier this week into the middle of hurricane-force storm, but the agency will otherwise not likely be launching its own investigation into the incident.
In a statement provided to gCaptain, the National Transportation Safety Board said that since the incident occurred in international waters and involved a Bahamian-flagged vessel, it is sticking to engaging with U.S. and international partners to determine what would be the best course of action, in accordance with established international protocols.
Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson urged the NTSB to review the incident as part of its investigation into the loss of the El Faro, the American cargo ship that sank off the Bahamas in October after sailing into Hurricane Joaquin, resulting in the loss of all 33 crew members.
“That investigation includes a weather group that is investigating TOTE Maritime’s decision-making processes regarding vessel operations in hurricanes and other heavy weather occurrences,” the NTSB statement said. “The Anthem of the Seas incident may provide us an additional opportunity to learn best practices that cruise line operators employ for operating in heavy weather.”
Experts have said that finding any real connection between the two incidents will be a stretch, other than that both ship’s sailed directly into the paths of forecasted storms.
The 168,666 ton Anthem of the Seas departed from Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey last Saturday with approximately 4,500 guests and 1,600 crewmembers for a scheduled 7-day roundtrip to the Bahamas. By Sunday, the vessel was well on its way to a schedule port call at Port Canaveral, Florida when the it encountered a large, hurricane-force storm off of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with wind gusts of more than 75 mph and rough 30-foot seas, according to the Coast Guard.
Royal Caribbean has maintained that the storm was worse than forecasted, but the company has come under fire by critics who say that the severity of the storm was forecasted days in advance. The company has since said it has established a new shoreside team of experts to help it route ships around storms.
“The severity of Sunday’s storm, with its 120-mph winds, far exceeded forecasts. Even so, it is our responsibility to eliminate every surprise we possibly can,” the company said in press release Wednesday. “As of today, we are strengthening our storm avoidance policy, and have added resources at our Miami headquarters to provide additional guidance to our ships’ captains.”
The Anthem of the Seas returned to its homepage in Bayonne, New Jersey on Wednesday night, where a Coast Guard team was waiting to inspect the vessel before clearing it for it’s next voyage beginning Saturday.
The cruise ship sustained largely cosmetic damage, but the vessel remains both seaworthy and maneuverable. Only a few minor injuries have been reported.
Since the Anthem of the Seas is registered in the Bahamas and the incident happened in international waters, international protocols dictate that Bahamian investigators will take the lead in the investigation, although with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Delivered in 2015, the Anthem of the Seas is one of the most technologically advanced cruise ships ever built and is tied as the world’s third largest by gross tonnage.