Thomson Majesty Accident – Five Crew Killed During Lifeboat Drill on Cruise Ship [UPDATE 3]

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February 11, 2013

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.


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.

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