Lifeboats Accidents. Case Studies.

… AMSA moved to adopt the revised SOLAS regulation III/… the effect of this change is that ships have the option of raising and lowering the lifeboats without the crew actually in the boat at the time. …
OPERATION OF LIFEBOATS AND SAFETY, Australian Maritime Safety Authority.


Shocking video on conducting rescue boat drill underway!


That is not just stupidity, that is a reckless and inexcusable negligence which puts seamen lives into immediate danger!

A crewmember died and two in hospital after a rescue boat accident on chemical tanker MTM Westport on November 21, 2014, off the Elbe estuary.

The crash of a rescue boat took place on the "MTM Westport" 147-meter-long chemical tanker registered in Hong Kong on 21 November 2014 in the North Sea off the Elbe estuary. As a result of boat fall from 11 metres high into the water a sailor killed and two others seriously injured. This was announced by the river police in Hamburg and the Society for Sea Rescue in Bremen.

MTM Westport

From the impact on the water surface of one of the men went overboard. The "MTM Westport" transmitted an emergency call, sparking a major rescue operation. Two rescue boats, a police boat and another ship drove to the scene southeast of the island of Helgoland to recover the wounded and to provide medical care. A Bundeswehr helicopters also flew emergency room immediately. Despite several attempts to revive a 57 year old sailor died on board of the lifeboat "Hermann Marwede". The other sailors were flown by helicopter to hospitals.

The "MTM Westport" is an oil and chemical tankers, she was on the way from Rotterdam to Hamburg. The reason for the crash of the rescue boat is unclear, according to the Hamburg Water Police. Source

A crewmember died and another is in hospital after a rescue boat accident on the cruise ship Coral Princess in Panama on October 31, 2014

The accident occurred (reportedly on October 24, not on 31) when a rescue boat crashed back to the water after a cable snapped as it was being hoisted. The two crewmen were on the boat doing maintenance work. Princess Cruises released the following statement on Facebook: "It is with deep sadness that I must share the news that our colleague Husnan Fauzan has passed away from injuries he sustained in the tragic accident on Coral Princess yesterday. Husnan, who served as SGP1, joined Princess in 2004.

Husnan Fauzan and Bosun Steven Bagshaw were onboard a lifeboat. They were both taken to the hospital for treatment. Unfortunately, Husnan died of the injuries sustained in the accident. Bagshaw remains in the in the hospital in stable condition."

An earlier version of this article misstated Cruise Lines International Association’s policy regarding crew members on lifeboats. The loading of lifeboats for training purposes should take place only when the boat is on the water. However, the raising and lowering of survival craft typically requires two to four crew members on board in order to safely raise and lower the boat.

Source: The Maritime Executive

Failure of lifeboat wire fall due to corrosion that resulted in five fatalities on passenger vessel Thomson Majesty

On 10 February 2013, passenger vessel Thomson Majesty was berthed port side alongside in Santa Crux de La Palma. At about 1030, the ship commenced a General Emergency and Life Boat Drill for all crew members. Three lifeboats on the outboard side were to be lowered to the water and sent away for training purposes. During the recovery and hoisting of no. 9 lifeboat, the forward wire fall parted causing the boat to swivel on the aft hook. As the boat reached an angle of approximately 45° to the horizontal, the aft end of the boat and the hook failed and the boat dropped approximately 20 metres to the sea, turning upside down as it entered the water. Eight deck and technical crew members were on board no. 9 lifeboat at the time of the accident, some of whom were carrying out familiarisation training rather than being the assigned boat crew. One crew member was thrown from the boat as it entered the water, and two crew members managed to escape from the upturned boat by their own efforts. The remaining five crew members were subsequently declared deceased at the scene.


The wire rope had parted approximately where it rested over the topmost sheave, when the davit was in a stowed position. The fore and aft davit’s falls were replaced on 22 August 2010 and the next scheduled replacement was August 2014. The launching appliance had been dynamically tested in May 2012. Initial results of the tests carried out on the parted ends of the wire indicate significant corrosion damage to the inner strands of the wire.

Fatal Accident on Container Carrier "The Anna Maersk"

Fatal accident occurred during man-overboard drill on Mar 28, 2012, on board of container carrier "Anna Maersk" in the Japanese port of Kobe. Unexpectedly suspension of a lifeboat failed, and it crashed into the water from a great height. A Filipino crewmember was killed, while a Danish officer was badly injured.


An offshore support vessel planned a routine launch of the rescue boat whilst at sea. A risk assessment was conducted and a permit to work was issued. The 2/O then left the bridge to brief the deck launching team (ABs 1& 2), and the boat’s crew (deck cadets 1 & 2) on the procedures. The conditions were ideal with a light breeze, near-calm sea state and no traffic. Prior to launching, the 2/O held a toolbox meeting, reviewed the procedures and completed all pre-launch checks. It was visually confirmed that the painter was secure and that the painter release mechanism was locked.
See full report here.

From report it is clear that apart of full stop of the headway, which is rather must for safe life/rescue boat drill, crew did everything to carry out the drill safely. This accident one more time underlines inherent unsafety of modern life/rescue boats. Device (i.e. L/Boats generally), being utterly imperfect, become so very sophisticated that to ensure its harmless operation ship’s crew needs hours of briefings and trainings, days of thorough maintenance by crew and shore-based staff, all thinkable instructions and precautions before launching, only to find out that something went wrong again in spite of all due efforts.


In advance of a statutory survey, the master of a tanker alongside a terminal ordered the chief mate and safety officer to lower vessel’s port side (offshore) lifeboat and confirm its proper operation. This was successfully carried out and the lifeboat was secured. Later that morning, in the presence of the class surveyor, the same lifeboat was lowered, when the forward fall wire parted and the empty lifeboat fell into the water.
Root cause/contributory factors:
Inadequate maintenance: faulty/inadequate condition assessment, lubrication, maintenance, adjusting, assembly, cleaning and resurfacing.
See full report here or here.

The report itself gives to the reader not much information, only that same lifeboat was lowered once and successfully recovered, but fell into the water on the second attempt made same day. What really attracts or MUST attract one’s attention are "Root cause/contributory factors" and "Lessons learnt". Both paragraphs are striking examples of "paper safety" when instead of close examination and identification of reasons and factors led to this accident readers are given a set of very common misdoings of general character equally applicable to failure of galley kneader machine or hydraulic pump, radar malfunction or damage to shaft of ballast system valve. When investigation gives such results I have no doubts that repentance of accident is almost ensured never mind 2-3 new checklists and a bunch of circulars which S&Q will send to the fleet.

Cruise ship "The Volendam"

January 9th 2011. A lifeboat remains dangling off the side of a cruise ship, moored at Christchurch’s Port Lyttelton, after a cable broke sending two crew members into the water. Divers searched the water for the 29-year-old man who fell overboard the Volendam, the Holland-American line cruise ship, and eventually recovered the man’s body. The other crew member managed to use a bucket to stay afloat and was quickly rescued. Source

Oil Rig "The Pride Rio de Janeiro"

January 2011. In Portland, Maine, in the United States, one oil rig worker died and two others were injured during a lifeboat drill. "A lifeboat containing three workers was being lifted back to its stowed position aboard the oil rig, the Pride Rio de Janeiro, following a lifeboat drill when the boat’s sternhook failed, dropping the lifeboat and the workers approximately 60 feet into the harbour", said OSHA’s (the Occupational Safety and Health Act) area director for Maine.

Carcarrier "The Tombarra"

In February 2011 FRB and its four crewmembers fell down during the drill from nearly 29m height. Fall wire parted when the rescue boat was hoisted to stowed position. One seafarer died and two needed hospital treatment. Alleged reason of this accident is that the water penetrated plastic hull and accumulated in void spaces filled with polyurethane foam. The boat accordingly weighted 1450kg instead of certified 980kg. Source

Boxship "CMA CGM Chritophe Colomb"

15 April 2011. During routine life boat drill davit’s hoisting mechanism had given way when the boat was lifted from water level. Two French officers died. Equipment was fitted out with fall prevention device. Source

Drilling platform Ocean Ambassador

On 17 May 2010 at 10.00 hours was carrying out a drill using lifeboat No. 2. While recovering lifeboat, after carrying out tests of motor and the spraying system, nearly at the height of the main deck the lifeboat released itself from the eye bolt connected to the forward hook of the Triple 5 release mechanism, remaining vertical for some moments when the after hook, which now supported all the weight of the lifeboat, released it to drop into the sea from a height of about 30 meters. As a result of this accident, two crewmembers died and another two suffered serious injuries.

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