Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas inadvertently dropped a lifeboat during what appears to have been crew training or tendering operations on Thursday, December 1, 2022.
Video footage and photos shared through social media show the moment of the accident, as well as the subsequent aftermath with a damaged lifeboat.
Lifeboat Goes Overboard
A startling video from Quantum of the Seas shows the ship’s number 12 lifeboat, on the port side of the vessel, detaching from its davits and falling overboard, aft-first, into the water and slowly drifting astern of the cruise ship on the afternoon of Thursday, December 1.
The davits for two other lifeboats were extended, hanging those boats out over the side, but number 12’s davits were still in the vertical position, having only been partially repositioned from their at rest and locked position at the time the lifeboat fell.
As it fell, the rescue craft hit the deck of the cruise ship, before falling over the side and into the water. As it settled into the water, the bow of the lifeboat also struck the side of the cruise ship.
The lifeboat was retrieved, and photos clearly show large dents and cracks on the starboard aft corner of the lifeboat, as well as damage to the fiberglass underside of the lifeboat. The rescue craft was able to be firmly secured in place aboard the cruise ship in its normal position.
No injuries were reported due to the incident, and it is highly unlikely anyone was aboard the rescue craft at the time, which would be a gross violation of safety procedures.
One crew member is visible on deck at the time the lifeboat falls, holding a guide rope of some sort, but quickly releases the rope and backs away as the lifeboat is clearly out of control.
Drill or Tendering?
While cruise ship crew members conduct frequent training and safety drills involving muster stations and lifeboats, this incident does not appear to have been during a training procedure.
There are no groups of crew members assembled on the deck, as there would be if lifeboat procedures were being explained or demonstrated at the time.
Read More: Cruise Ship Lifeboats – How Are They Tested?
Furthermore, because the lifeboat quickly drifts astern rather than bobbing at the position it was dropped, it is clear that Quantum of the Seas is still moving forward, though slowly, at the time the lifeboat detached.
Quantum of the Seas is sailing a 10-night roundtrip South Pacific itinerary from Brisbane, Australia, and was visiting Mystery Island in Vanuatu on the day of the incident.
Mystery Island is a tender port, meaning that small boats are required to ferry guests from the cruise ship to small docks or piers as they debark the ship to enjoy time ashore.
It is not unusual for cruise ships to use their own lifeboats for this purpose, as many small port communities do not have adequate ferry boats to meet the demand when a large cruise ship visits. To expedite tendering, the lifeboats to be used will often be readied shortly before the ship arrives at anchor for the port of call.
Once the cruise ship is at rest for tendering, the lifeboats would have been fully lowered into the water for guests to board using a gangway between the cruise ship and the lifeboat, which the lifeboat using thrusters and being tied off to maintain a close, safe position for embarkation and debarkation.
Mystery Island is itself uninhabited, and is two-thirds of a mile (one kilometer) south of Aneityum Island, which has a population of just under 1,000 people.
For comparison, the Quantum-class cruise ship can host 4,180 passengers at double occupancy, and as many as 4,905 guests when fully booked, along with the 1,500 officers and crew members on board.
No Delays Reported
Guests onboard Quantum of the Seas report that the lines were a bit longer for tendering to Mystery Island, but there appears to have been no significant delay to the ship’s itinerary.
Since the port time at Mystery Island was to have been 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., that allowed plenty of time for the lifeboat to be retrieved and secured before the cruise ship continued on its way.
Quantum of the Seas will finish out its itinerary with a day at sea on Friday, and overnight call on Port Vila, Vanuatu, from Saturday to Sunday, two addition days at sea, and will return to Brisbane on Wednesday, December 7.