Pilot Error Responsible for Harmony of the Seas Collision in Jamaica

Poor communication caused the Royal Caribbean ship to collide with the pier in Jamaica. Should cruise travelers be concerned?

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The Ministry of Tourism in Jamaica has determined that pilot error was responsible for Harmony of the Seas backing into a dock extension in Falmouth, Jamaica on May 26, 2022. The dock is currently being repaired and should be fully operational for ships next week.

Harmony of the Seas Collides With Dock

The collision occurred as Harmony of the Seas was backing into its assigned berth Thursday morning at approximately 7 a.m. As the ship was maneuvering into the space, the vessel’s aft collided with a concrete mooring pylon, which collapsed into the water.

The Oasis-class ship suffered minor cosmetic damage, including small dents and paint scrapes. Within hours, however, the ship had been inspected and a maintenance crew was able to make the necessary repairs.

“The good news is that nobody got hurt and the damage was minimal to the vessel and it was able to continue its journey unfazed and really unaffected,” said Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, according to a report from The Gleaner.

Bartlett did offer an explanation for the collision in his remarks, explaining that the pilot – who controls the vessel during docking operations – was badly directed at the time.

While no further information was disclosed, this seems to indicate that there may have been a communication breakdown between the pilot and on-shore assistants at the time of the collision.

The ship, which is currently sailing a 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary, departed Falmouth on time on Thursday, and is continuing on with its planned schedule. Today the ship visited Royal Caribbean International’s private destination in Labadee, Haiti, and Saturday will be a day at sea before the vessel returns to Port Canaveral on Sunday, May 29.

Repairs Underway

While the cosmetic damage to Harmony of the Seas was quickly repaired, it will take somewhat longer to reconstruct the damaged dock extension, but that work is already underway.

“We are repairing the damaged areas at the port now,” Bartlett said. “The divers are there now recovering the broken elements and we should be back in full order for the ships that come next week.”

Harmony of the Seas Damage (Photo Credit: Nick Vitani)

The Port of Falmouth, which is 18 miles east of Montego Bay, has several vessels scheduled to arrive in the next few days, including Royal Caribbean International’s Liberty of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas, as well as Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Fantasy.

Harmony of the Seas is not scheduled to return to Falmouth until June 23, as the ship’s next three sailings are all Eastern Caribbean itineraries and will not be visiting Jamaica.

Pier Collisions – Are They More Common?

It seems as pier collisions are becoming a greater hazard in recent years. This may be in part due to larger ships that can be more challenging to maneuver, especially in tricky waters or if weather conditions create added difficulties.

Royal Caribbean Oasis Class Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: GERARD BOTTINO / Shutterstock

Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean International’s Radiance of the Seas struck an outer mooring dolphin (a structure ships tie up to) at the new Sitka Sound cruise terminal.

In December 2020, just a few weeks after resuming passenger sailings, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Escape hit the pier wall in Civitavecchia, the main cruise port for Rome.

In August 2018, Carnival Horizon collided with Pier 90 in Manhattan, New York. That collision resulted in damage to both the pier and the ship, which was eventually estimated to amount to $2.5 million. Similar to the recent incident in Jamaica, that collision was caused by poor communication.

Disney Dream collided with the pier in Nassau while docking in September 2017, causing a significant dent to the ship’s aft.

These are just a few of the collision incidents noted from different cruise lines in the past few years.

While each incident makes headlines and raises concerns, it is also important to remember that many cruise ships dock around the world every day without difficulty, safely and smoothly bringing guests to many remarkable destinations.

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