Lifeboat Drill from Lloyds List

When lifeboats become death boats

Monday 17 November 2014

by Michael Grey

WHY would you not be frightened out of your wits every time you were required to carry out a lifeboat drill? When regulators, safety authorities and manufacturers seem unable to get a grip on the numbers of deaths and injuries caused when lifeboat drills go badly wrong, might your confidence in this so-called “life-saving” equipment be somewhat lacking?

There was another fatal incident just the other day, when an emergency boat being recovered aboard a Princess cruiseship in Colon plunged from a great height, killing a seaman and injuring the boatswain.

There just doesn’t seem to be any real sign that all the recommendations, procedures, regulations and guidance that have been produced since this scandal was recognised has even begun to have an effect.

You might suggest that in the great scheme of things, the drip, drip, drip of one person killed here, two there, five in one exceptional case, lack the impact that might provoke a great wave of revulsion that would accompany, say, a whole tender full of passengers plunging to their doom.

But people know better than to expose passengers to the risk that crew members have to face on a regular basis, if international regulations on monthly boat drills are to be fulfilled.

The truth is that we don’t actually know how many seafarers are killed and injured, such is the cavalier fashion we have for recording these small tragedies, with a substantial number of flag states failing to transmit details of such accidents to the International Maritime Organization.

We know from the records and the casualty investigations of those states which have the will and the capability to carry them out that there are a lot of these accidents, but we also know that nothing very much appears to be improving. It is small wonder that lifeboat drills are such a source of worry to seafarers, who have no great confidence in their equipment.

We know why people are ending up dead and maimed. The on-load mechanism fails with the boat in the air, because of its inadvertent release, as a result of its useless design, its hopeless complexity, its poor maintenance (it may be just about impossible to maintain).

The crew might be unfamiliar with the equipment, perhaps not surprising with some 70 different manufacturers involved in providing this gear, or there have been communication failures or unsafe practices. The wire falls may have corroded and parted at the worst possible moment. There is, you might think, plenty of scope for an accident, although it is perhaps the ultimate irony that equipment put aboard to save lives has probably harmed more people than it has ever saved in the past quarter century.

Dennis Barber, casualty investigator for the Bahamas Register and a marine safety expert was, by coincidence giving a lecture about lifeboat accidents in London the other evening. He was speaking to members of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, probably a good audience in that if you are looking for change, it is those who design things who have the capability of producing it.

He has investigated fatal lifeboat accidents and has perhaps understandably strong views about the design problems which emerged after 1986, when all-enclosed boats with on-load release hooks came mandatorily into operation. He suggests that it is these features which combine to produce such problems, in a boat where there is no deck space outside the “pod”, it is difficult to get at the hooks and falls and bowsing tackles, with the gear too complex for its own good.

He seems to suggest that there is little justification for all enclosed craft, as long voyages are not contemplated in boats these days, while actually being in one of these craft in a seaway is a horrible experience. He recalls the master of the MCS Napoli speaking about how their boat hugely overheated as they got clear of their damaged ship, with everyone seasick and two crew members seriously ill by the time the helicopters arrived.

He listed a whole range of problems which have led to deaths and injuries. Davits where the weight of the boat stays on the fall wires as they go over a block are an invitation to steel wires to corrode at this point.

He criticised the simple systems of the past giving way to complexity, where it is difficult or impossible to maintain anything, or even grease it. He could not understand why safety pennants were disapproved of, when they really could save lives with this extra layer of insurance, although he conceded that most davits do not have a securing point where these wires could be attached.

There is no shortage of guidance from the IMO and flag states, although Capt Barber suggests that it tends to be written for lawyers and require “translation” before seafarers can properly understand it. And if most accidents actually take place in drills, why is there such reluctance to talk about these specifically?

There are changes taking place, which will require hooks to be changed if they are thought dangerous and manufacturers to do more maintenance, but are we really going far and fast enough? Maybe we should be asking ourselves whether enclosed boats are really needed and whether the small crews aboard a modern merchant ship could be served with something rather simpler and a good deal safer and which doesn’t scare its users witless at the thought of a safety drill.

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On July 21, 2014, the mv MARY MAERSK departed Algeciras, Spain with a world record 17,603 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), the most TEU’s ever loaded onto a single vessel.

mv MARY MAERSK is the third vessel in Maersk Line’s Triple-E class, which have nominal capacity of 18,270 TEU, although port restrictions have prevented the vessels from reaching full capacity.

“Algeciras has been preparing for full utilisation of the Triple-E for more than a year,” says Carlos Arias, head of the South Europe Liner Operations Cluster. “This included the upgrading of four existing cranes and the arrival of four new Triple-E cranes.”

After departing Algeciras, the vessel was bound for Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia, which included a trip through the Suez Canal. Arias added that similar upgrades needed to be made at the port of Tanjung Pelepas, and this was the first occasion where both ends were ready.

“It feels very good, and nice memories to look back on at a later stage,” commented MARY MAERSK captain, Captain Thorvald Hansen, on the world record feat.

“We were a little excited to pass Suez with such a big load, but everything worked out as planned,” Hansen added.

The mv MARY MAERSK is now enroute to China with a slightly lighter load, but by the end of the month will once again be headed west.


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Letter to Minister

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Statement by MNZ regarding LAKE TRIVIEW questioned.

This whole debacle, detailed in the article below, deserves closer scrutiny.

The ship was in what some would say, an unsafe anchorage, after being ordered out of Port New Plymouth by the Harbourmaster because the port could not provide a suitable safe berth in the prevailing weather. Did the Harbourmaster or pilot give instructions about where to anchor or not to anchor? Did the pilot not remain on the ship and if not why not?

It appears that Port Taranaki were notified on 24 May that the ship was dragging its anchor. Did they notify MNZ and if not why not? Why were the tugs not deployed when asked to go on standby? Any Harbourmaster worth his salt would not sit back and wait, knowing that a ship outside his port was in difficulties and dragging anchor onto a lee shore. 

The whole episode does not seem as simple as the non seafarer MNZ Director states in his press release. His main concern and the subject of the court case was that it was not reported officially by the Master. Does he think that after having his ship drift onto a reef, probably because of mechnical failure, that he then took himself off to bed until the storm abated.

The Master’s main concern would be to refloat the vessel, assess and secure the damage and take any other action that would mitigate any polution. As he had already reported the incident to shore authorities, the last thing that he would be thinking about was to make an official report to Maritime New Zealand who, if he was not a regular visitor to New Zealand, had never heard of them.

The following article by LYN HUMPHREYS was published in the Taranki Daily News.

The lives of 21 crew were put at risk in a potential Rena-type disaster off New Plymouth when a large cargo vessel took on water after running aground on a reef last month.

The incident has prompted a strong message from Maritime New Zealand.

“This incident posed a potential threat to the 21 crew and could have had a serious impact on the environment, and yet no effort was made for some days to notify Maritime New Zealand,” MNZ director Keith Manch said yesterday.

“That is simply unacceptable and cannot be tolerated,” he said.

The potential crisis was revealed in documents before the New Plymouth District Court where the ship’s captain pleaded guilty to failing to inform MNZ that his vessel, the 77 metre Lake Triview, sustained multiple holes in its hull after getting stuck on the reef off New Plymouth on the night of Saturday, May 24.

The Lake Triview first dragged its anchor that night, drifting close to shore. It grounded on the reef off Waiwhakaiho.

It was holed multiple times and took on water after managing to use its engines to propel its way free.

When inspected in port the Lake Triview was found to have 12 holes in its hull.

The captain, Rolando Legaspi, a 63-year-old Filipino national, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to failing to notify MNZ of the grounding of the vessel. Legaspi did not appear in court for sentencing yesterday morning, instead asking to be represented by his lawyer Andrew Laurenson.

Community magistrate Robyn Paterson fined Legaspi $2000 with court costs of $130 after he was given credit for his early guilty plea and for finally revealing the full story of what happened during an interview with maritime inspectors.

The maximum penalty for an individual is $5000.

Manch said the sentence should send a strong message to those responsible for vessels operating around New Zealand.

Details of the grounding were not received by MNZ until late in the evening of May 28, he said.

“It is essential that Maritime New Zealand is notified of incidents as soon as possible to ensure measures are taken immediately to protect human life and the environment,” Manch said.

In court, MNZ prosecutor Shane Elliott, of Auckland, said the incident, which occurred in rough seas, was viewed as serious.

The captain knew water was leaking into the hull but failed to notify MNZ as he was required to do under the Maritime Safety Act.

Notifying any such incident was of paramount importance because it enabled authorities to respond quickly and appropriately to avoid any risk, such as occurred with the Rena, he said.

Court documents show the captain has had his master’s ticket since 1980. The Singapore-flagged vessel was carrying a part-cargo of soya meal to be offloaded at Port Taranaki. It is owned by Tri View Shipping Ltd.

MNZ said the vessel would be detained at Port Taranaki pending arrangements for repair of the damage.


May 24: 11am. Lake Triview anchors about 2.1 nautical miles (3.9 kilometres) off Port Taranaki. It is carrying a partial load of soya meal for Port Taranaki. Vessel has draught of 7 metres.

May 24: 5.30pm. Anchor drags and vessel moves slowly towards shore.

May 24: 8pm. Captain orders anchor raised. Mechanical failure prevents this. Captain asks Port Taranaki to put two tugs on standby. These are not deployed.

May 24: 9.38pm. Vessel runs aground on a rocky reef in about 7m of water. Anchor is successfully retrieved. Vessel remains grounded on reef for about 5 minutes. Freed using its own engines. Port Taranaki advises Maritime New Zealand the vessel’s anchor dragged.

May 26: MNZ seeks details. MNZ is not told of the grounding.

May 27: Vessel berths. Inspection by divers identifies 12 breaches of the ballast tanks as a result of grounding. No oil spill detected.

June 12: Vessel still detained at Port Taranaki pending arrangements for repair of the damage.

Source: MNZ


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Ian Dymock, the retired seafarer who has tirelessly sought recognition for the Merchant Navy personnel, especially those who served during the Second World War has been  awarded the Queens Service Medal (QSM) it was announced today.


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Maritime New Zealand have detained a ship at Port Taranaki and charged its master after the ship was damaged in rough seas last weekend.

Singaporean cargo ship Lake Triview suffered damage to its hull last Saturday night when it dragged anchor off the coast of New Plymouth in stormy conditions.

Port Taranaki was closed to shipping at the weekend because of the weather, and ships were sent to sea.

Maritime New Zealand spokesman Steve Rendle said the ship’s master was charged under the Maritime Transport Act.

“It requires that Maritime New Zealand be notified of any damage as soon as practicable.”

“The ship has been damaged, then headed back out to sea, re-anchored and then berthed as normal on Tuesday.”

The ship’s master will appear in the New Plymouth District Court next Wednesday, Rendle said.

A spokesman for the ship’s agent, Phoenix Shipping Agencies Ltd, said they had no comment on the damage or charge being laid.

The Taranaki Daily News understands the ship ran into a rock reef and the damage included at least 12 holes, one of which was big enough for a diver to fit through.

No oil spill was detected and none of the ship’s soya meal cargo was lost, Rendle said. “I have had no reports of injury.”

Rendle said the 177 metre-long Lake Triview had been detained until repairs were made. It is understood this could take up to three months.

An employee of the ship’s Canadian management company, Fairmont Shipping Ltd, said a representative for protection and indemnity was in Taranaki dealing with the affairs.

“It was an unfortunate incident, due to the weather,” he said from Vancouver yesterday. “There was no pollution to the ocean and there is no further concern of environmental damage.”

Port Taranaki chief executive Roy Weaver said it was a busy time for the port and having a ship laid up was “not ideal.”

“It is being held safely on site,” Weaver said.

“It is still in port laid up awaiting the various parties to do what they need to.”

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ON DECK – March 2014

(1) Pages 01-06

(2) Pages 07-12

(3) Pages 13-17

(4) Pages 18-22

(5) Pages 23-27

(6) Pages 28-32

(7) Pages 33-37

(8) Pages 38-42

(9) Pages 43-47

(10) Pages 48-52

(11) Pages 53-58

(12) Pages 59-60


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Letter to Editor

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A charge bought against the Master of the SANTA REGINA of endangering passengers and crew during a return trip to Picton was dropped by the judge in the Wellington Court this afternoon and the jury dismissed.

After listening to this trial drag out during the past six days I am wondering if there is a vendetta by Maritime New Zealand against our profession. It is well known that they do not like the term Captain and prohibit any employee who may have the experience and qualifications to call himself Captain to prefix his name with the title.

Some of the hearing concerned what happened before the minor berthing collision. We had to watch a real time video taken from the AIS of the berthing manoeuvre. Surely this had nothing to do with the charge and this type of forum is not the ideal place to discuss such technical matters. Doctors who make a mistake with an operation are usually judged by their peers as happens with many other professions.

The original charge included not reporting the accident as soon as practical but this was dropped before the trial began.

These minor collisions (allusions) are a frequent occurrences at ports throughout the world. They are similar to a hard landing by a jet. How hard does it have to be before it is reported? A cabin attendant sitting next to me during a hard landing replied when I commented about one “He always  does it like that”.

Until about 10 years ago this type of accident would be reported to and handled by the Harbourmaster who was in all ports the senior pilot who had spent many years berthing and un-berthing ships. Sadly this is now not the case.

The crown likened it to the RENA grounding by stating that big things start from small things. They were reminded by the defence that a 1.85 metre gash 50 mm wide was not quite the same as running a container ship onto a reef at 18 knots.

That the Master had not seen the small tear in the shell plating when he and the chief engineer inspected the area after berthing involved a number of witnesses. A badly made video showing how different brands of torches and car head lights could light up the ships side was shown to the jury in a one hour show made by a road crash and fire investigator. I thought he was a torch salesman.

A weather forecaster even offered opinion on how ferries entered Marlborough Sounds in stormy conditions although on the day in question the highest recorded wind speed was only 42 knots.

It disturbs me that our profession is administered in New Zealand by such an inept Government Department and whose treatment of a senior officer will not win them any friends. It is little wonder that many fine New Zealand seafarers are now working overseas.

The cost of this investigation and subsequent trial must run into many thousands of dollars which will be borne by the taxpayer.

Captain Henderson had to wait nearly three years to have his day in court which is unacceptable.


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Recent Departures

Members who recently crossed the bar:

Captain Christopher S. Morris – Tauranga Branch on 21st September 2013;

Captain Ronald A. Colebrook – Wellington Branch on 22nd September 2013;

Captain Robert Wyld – Tauranga Branch on 30th January 2014

Captain Hugh Coates – Christchurch Branch on 26th February 2014

Captain William A. Siddal – Christchurch Branch on 27th March 2014

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