Lifeboat Drills Are Endangering Maritime Workers' Lives

Maritime workers have dangerous jobs. They work on vessels in the open sea, where access to emergency assistance is not always fast or guaranteed. One of the most prominent dangers they face, ironically, involves drilling for emergencies. Lifeboat drills in particular are notoriously hazardous for the workers who perform them. Crew members have been catastrophically injured and lost their lives during lifeboat drills – begging the questions: why are these so dangerous, and what is being done to protect crews?

In the article Why Are Lifeboats Killing Seafarers? the author, Master Mariner Nick Yatsenko, says, “During my life at sea, I was always anxious during lifeboat drills.” He goes on to talk about a relative who was seriously injured when he was inspecting a free-fall lifeboat on a container carrier. His relative was inside the lifeboat when it suddenly fell into the sea.

That story is just one of many involving unintentional releases and other lifeboat drill accidents:

  • In February 2013, 5 crew members of the Thomas Majesty luxury cruise ship were killed during a lifeboat drill. 8 crewmen were on the lifeboat when it plunged 65 feet, overturning as it hit the water below. Three of the crew were able to jump free from the lifeboat before it struck the water, but five remained stuck in the overturned vessel and drowned before rescue crews could reach them.
  • In July 2015, 2 crew members were seriously injured during a rescue boat drill. They were hoisting the boat onto the Norweigan Cruise Line’s Pride of America when it became detached and fell from the sixth deck into the water below.
  • In July 2016, 2 crew members were killed and 2 others were injured as the result of a failed lifeboat drill on the Norwegian Breakaway. The lifeboat fell into the water during the drill.
  • In September 2016, 1 crew member was killed and 4 were injured during a lifeboat drill on the Royal Carribean’s Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship. The crew was inside the lifeboat when it fell from the fifth deck into the water below.

Read our blog on lifeboat accidents for more information on these incidents.

What Is Causing Lifeboat Drill Accidents?

Most lifeboat drill accidents can be attributed to design failure, equipment failure, improper maintenance, and lack of training. According to a report by the Nautical Institute following a 10-year review of lifeboat drill accidents by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), “The equipment failure was reported to be the most common cause of accidents…” Specifically “quick release mechanism failure.”

All four of the incidents listed above involved lifeboats or rescue boats that fell into the water. On a large vessel, this type of fall may be about 60 feet or more, putting crew members at risk of drowning or suffering broken bones, head trauma, and other injuries consistent with significant falls.

Lifeboat Drill Requirements

Lifeboat drills are crucial to the safety of crew members and passengers on large maritime vessels. This applies to offshore oil platformscommercial fishing boatscruise ships, and more.

Since 2012, the Cruise Lines International Assoiciation (NLIA) has required cruise ships with crews of 300 or more people to conduct lifeboat drills at least every 6 months. These drills must include full loading and launching of lifeboats. The boat must be waterborne, and the only people in the boat are to be lifeboat crew members.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Lifeboat Drill Injuries & Deaths

Lifeboat drills are necessary. Crews must be prepared to abandon ship in the event of an emergency, and they will be responsible not only for themselves but for any passengers as well. This makes lifeboat and rescue boat drills all the more important, but seamen should not feel that they are risking their lives when conducting these exercises. What’s more, lifeboats should not be coming detached in the first place – if that happened in the middle of an actual emergency, there would likely be passengers on board as well.

The following can help reduce the likelihood of lifeboat drill accidents:

  • Thorough inspections of hoists, lines, and other equipment used to lift and lower lifeboats.
  • Replacement and maintenance of this equipment as needed.
  • Increased/enhanced crew training on lifeboat drill sequences and best practices.

Leading Trial Lawyers for Maritime Workers

Arnold & Itkin has a reputation for protecting maritime workers’ rights and interests after the worst offshore accidents, blowoutsexplosions, and more. We know how to stand up against large oil and gas companies, their attorneys, and their insurance companies to seek answers for our clients and help them get the financial support they need for their medical care, inability to work, pain and suffering, and more.

Call (888) 346-5024 today to speak with an offshore injury lawyer at our firm about your rights and options. We are standing by to help.

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