The incident

Giovanni DP was on an ocean passage towards Antwerp, Belgium and the crew were all to carry out an abandon ship drill.

While carrying out a test of the lifeboat’s release hook, the lifeboat inadvertently fell into the water with the chief officer onboard.

The crew advised immediately the bridge and the master executed a Scharnow Turn to retrieve the lifeboat and the chief officer.

Both were recovered successfully, although the chief officer was seriously injured.

 

Probable cause

The immediate cause of the accident was the failure of the lifeboat maintenance chain.

A contributory cause to its release was the removal of the safety bolt from the maintenance position.

The installation of the chain block with a safe working load of two tons did not hold the lifeboat in position. The lifeboat weighed twice as much as the SWL of the chain block and the weight of the FFLB alone would have caused the chain block to exceed its tensile breaking strength. Moreover, the chain block did not absorb the shock load applied, once the maintenance chain had failed. Chains do not absorb such loads and are not suitable to be used as fall preventer devices.

 

Conclusions

  • In all probability, the maintenance chain of the free-fall lifeboat failed, due to the high hardness in the steel;
  • The safety bolt was removed from the maintenance position, allowing the freefall hook to release;
  • The chain block which was added as an additional lashing measure, was not sufficient to hold the lifeboat;
  • The crew members were not fully aware of the correct procedure for testing the release of the hook;

The Manual was not referred to in detail. This could have led to the chief officer not being fully aware of the correct procedure for testing the release of the hook. The actions of others further suggested that the crew members were not familiar with the instructions and procedures contained in the document.

  • A risk assessment was not carried out on the testing of the free-fall lifeboat release system.

During the senior officer’s meeting at 1500, neither was a risk assessment carried out nor was the procedure for simulated launching discussed. As a result, hazards, such as the conditions of the weather on that day, would not, most probably, have been taken into consideration and therefore, the risks entailed could not have been mitigated.

 

Actions taken

During the course of the safety investigation, the Company identified several shortcomings, which had contributed to the accident.

To prevent recurrence of this event, the Company updated its planned maintenance system, now requiring the maintenance chain to be replaced at five yearly intervals.

Meanwhile, it has planned additional training, with special emphasizes on lifeboat simulated launching and the strict enforcement of the ‘stop the work’ authority.

Finally, the owner reviewed the risk assessment procedure to include additional level of authorities for approval.

 

Recommendations

The MSIU has issued one recommendation to the flag State Administration, addressing safe operations of free fall lifeboats.