Weakened hardware led to serious injuries during lifeboat drill

(RICHMOND, British Columbia) — In its investigation report (M20P0353) released Tuesday, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) found that weakened hardware and an improperly secured lifeboat sling caused the accidental release of a free-fall lifeboat during a drill aboard the bulk carrier Blue Bosporus in British Columbia.

On Dec. 1, 2020, while the crew on Blue Bosporus were carrying out a free-fall lifeboat drill in English Bay, British Columbia, the slings holding the lifeboat failed. As a result, the lifeboat fell approximately 45 feet to the water. There were two unsecured crewmembers in the lifeboat at the time. Both crewmembers were seriously injured and were transferred to a hospital. The forward starboard side of the lifeboat’s hull sustained damage. There was no pollution.

TSB photo

The investigation found that the crimp sleeves, which are used to secure the eyes on the lifeboat slings, had weakened over time. The manner in which the slings were attached to the hooks on the lifeboat davit caused the load to concentrate on the right rear sling. This, in combination with the weakened crimp sleeves, caused the failure of the slings and a bracket on the lifeboat.

Without a complete procedure for conducting a drill that involved launching the lifeboat using the davit, the crew had developed an informal practice that did not address the risk of standing unsecured in the lifeboat, which led to the serious injury of two crewmembers when the lifeboat fell.

Although the vessel owner, Apollonia Lines S.A., had regular maintenance routines in place to verify the condition of the lifeboat and its launching appliances, they did not prompt the crew to specifically check the condition of the slings. While there are international requirements for inspections of lifeboat lifting appliances and associated components, they do not clearly address slings associated with free-fall lifeboats. In the absence of any international guidance requiring free-fall lifeboat slings to be verified periodically, inspected before use and marked with a safe working load, there is a risk that this critical equipment will be overlooked during inspections or its safe limits will be exceeded, leading to an accident.

Following the occurrence, Apollonia Lines S.A. replaced the failed and damaged equipment aboard Blue Bosporus, including a newly manufactured, load tested and certified sling assembly and brackets. The company also issued a safety management system circular to all its vessels regarding requirements for inspections of lifeboats and associated equipment and for lifeboat drills.

Click here to read the complete report.

– Transportation Safety Board of Canada

By Rich Miller