A safety drill on the Harmony of the Seas turned awry after a lifeboat carrying five crew members mysteriously detached from the cruise ship and fell 33 feet into the ocean. The impact killed a 42-year-old Philippine national and injured four others, two of which are in critical condition.
This is the second fatal cruise accident ironically involving a lifeboat in three months. Just this past July, a crew member of the Norwegian Breakaway vessel also lost his life during a safety training after he was aboard a lifeboat that detached from the ship and was hanging from one wire, causing him to fall into the water.
The Harmony of Seas, which is operated by Royal Caribbean, had its inaugural sail this past May. It measures 1,188 feet, weighs 226,963 tons and can accommodate 6,780 guests and 2,100 crew members- making it the largest cruise ship in the world. Along with its impressive size (50 meters longer than the Eiffel Tower) it’s also equipped with record-setting 44-ton, 370- person life boats, which exceed the normal design limit of 150 passengers on the regulatory allowance for equipment and is supposed to offer an equivalent amount of safety. “The guests literally just walk on, sit down and the vessel is lowered,” said Rich Pruitt, Royal Caribbean’s vice president of safety and environmental stewardship, describing the new lifeboats last year. “There’s just less moving parts and less actions that have to be taken to get the boats ready to be launched. So in addition to the quality and the improvements in the boats themselves, the deployment and location of them on board the vessel leads to additional safety.”
In spite of the new lifeboats boasted safety, lifeboat drills, which are a requirement of every vessel under the Safety of Life at Sea regulations, have been long considered one of the most hazardous planned evolution of the maritime industry. “Most accidents [occur] during routine drills and maintenance activities at the human/mechanical interface, with the majority of personnel being injured or killed within the boat,” the Nautical Institute reports, citing an industry study. “Equipment failure was reported to be the most common cause of accidents, within which quick release mechanism failure was identified as the most frequent cause.
Pending investigation as to what caused the accident, the ship will remain docked in Marseille, France.