Aug 082011

The hull could not hold it's own weight.

France’s accident investigation agency, BEAmer, has called for lifeboats and sub-assemblies to be subject to the same sort of quality and risk controls as in the car industry to protect lives. The call comes in BEAmer’s investigation report into the fall of a lifeboat from the containership Christophe Colomb in Shenzhen earlier this year which found that a safety-critical part had not been installed during assembly and the lifeboat hull fittings could support its own weight on a single hook.

Three men were aboard the Christophe Colomb’s starboard lifeboat during a drill. While the lifeboat was being recovered the forward pulley block contacted the davit, the swivel broke away from the linking devices to the quick release hook. As the lifeboat tipped down the the part of the hull on which the base plate of the aft hook was bolted had been torn off. After a 24 metre fall into the water he lifeboat ended upside down.

An officer and a cadet died and an AB severely injured.

BEAmer concludes that a spring pin had not been installed on the forward release hook assembly when it was manufactured. The swivel nut holding the assembly unscrewed , leading the failure of the assembly.

Missing spring pin dropped the boat

Maintenance inspection and surveys that might had revealed the problem may have been hampered because, says BEAmer: “…amazingly, there is no survey platform forward the davit, the access for greasing operation as well as for close visual survey of vital parts (pulley block, swivel, nut, pin, and so on…) is uneasy and dangerous, contrary to the aft equipment that are easy to access and thus easy to survey.

“This situation is not in accordance with the IMO recommendation (cf. §4.3.10 MSC 1049) and is an underlying factor likely to impair the survey efficiency”.

Although the lifeboat, manufactured by Hyundaï Lifeboats Co. Ltd (Korea), was compliant with mandatory requirements it did not provide safety to those inside. “The weakness of the structure is an aggravating factor of the consequences of the accident. The break and the consequent fall have deprived the crew of a chance for survival” says BEAmer.

The organisation wants the Life Saving Appliances code amended to require the structure of the lifeboat to be strong enough to support its own weight and that of its crew with only one hook.

A basic principle of safety design, that a single point failure should not have a catastrophic outcome, was not applied to the lifeboat and launching system. In its recommendations BEAmer says the maritime industry should : “…adopt a course of action similar to that in effect in the car industry adopting the same quality requirements, a rigorous risk assessment process and making paramount the safety of the passengers of a transportation asset, moreover of a rescue asset. The fault of a lone part of the “system” should not be fatal”.

FPD - a lifesaver, but not mandatory

BEAmer has also added its voice to those of other accident investigation agencies calling for fall prevention devices to be mandatory and recommends that the IMO: “ban definitely the presence of crewmembers aboard davit launched lifeboats, during lowering and hoisting operations, as long as the fault risks of the “davit/lifeboat system “ will not be all identified and suppressed”.

Download full report, French followed by English)

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  2 Responses to “Christophe Colomb Lifeboat Fatalities: “Make Lifeboats Like Cars” Says BEAmer”

  1. Will some one be punished? Will there be special compensation in this death caused by some one’s negligence whether manufacturer or approver of the design? Will the manufacturer be banned from business? Will the approving Flag State punish the official involved?

    The answer is big NO!

    It would have been YES, had there been a pollution case!

    It’s pity!

    Ajay Tripathi

  2. As an industry, lifeboat manufacturers are untouched by the concept of taking responsibility for their own products. Its supine industry association does little except to complain that most of its members could not meet safety tests demanded by the maritime industry.

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