The P&O Cruises ship Britannia broke free from mooring lines on Sunday morning, August 27, 2023 while docked in Palma de Mallorca, Spain during a sudden storm. The cruise ship drifted away from the pier and collided with a nearby tanker, causing damage to both vessels.
Britannia anchored away from the docks for an assessment and for the weather to clear before returning to permit guests to board the ship after returning from tours.
Britannia Breaks Free From Pier
During a severe storm that struck Palma de Mallorca at approximately 11 a.m. on Sunday, August 27, high winds caused Britannia to break free from her lines and drift from the pier where the vessel was docked. While drifting, the cruise ship collided with the tanker vessel Castillo de Arteaga.
Both ships suffered what appears to be minor damage, including paint scrapes and scuffs as well as bent or broken railings. Some damage also occurred to at least one of Britannia‘s lifeboats, and guests onboard the ship have reported seeing debris in the water nearby.
Shortly after the collision, the ship’s captain ordered all guests to remain in their staterooms. He later confirmed that Britannia did suffer some damage to Deck 5, but that the ship’s structure and safety were not compromised.
After the incident, Britannia anchored offshore for several hours to wait out the weather and ensure the ship could dock again safely. Later in the evening, the ship was docked once again with tug assistance and guests were able to return. There were no significant injuries reported and no evacuations were ordered from the vessel.
During the sudden storm, steady winds of approximately 23 miles per hour (37 kilometers per hour) were recorded in the area, with wind gusts as high as 59 mph (95 kph). Heavy rain and even hail were reported with the storm as well.
Guests who were on shore at the time noted trees uprooted or trunks snapped, roofs damaged, and significant debris scattered over roads and walkways, including outdoor furniture being scattered.
How Will the Sailing be Impacted?
At this time, Britannia remains docked in Palma de Mallorca. The current sailing is a 14-night Mediterranean cruise that departed from Southampton, UK on Friday, August 18, and has enjoyed calls on Cadiz, Cartagena, and Ibiza.
After the visit to Palma de Mallorca – an overnight stay from August 26-27 – the ship is due to visit Gibraltar before returning to Southampton on Friday, September 1.
It is not yet confirmed whether or not the ship will remain significantly longer in Palma de Mallorca for repairs, whether the call to Gibraltar will be adjusted or cancelled, or if the ship will return to Southampton on schedule, but a spokesperson for P&O Cruises did release a statement about the incident.
“On Sunday, August 27, P&O Cruises Britannia was involved in a weather-related incident while alongside in Palma de Mallorca. A small number of individuals sustained minor injuries and are being cared for by the onboard medical centre. To allow our technical teams to make an assessment Britannia will remain alongside in Palma de Mallorca tonight with onboard entertainment and activities scheduled,” the statement read.
All damage to the cruise ship appears to be well above the waterline, though thorough assessments will need to be completed before Britannia can set sail again.
It is also possible that the next sailing, a 14-night Northern Europe and Scandinavia cruise, may be impacted, particularly if the ship needs more extensive repairs or is delayed returning to Southampton.
Britannia is 143,730-gross ton, Royal class cruise ship. She joined the P&O Cruises fleet in 2015, having been christened by Queen Elizabeth II, and can welcome 3,647 guests aboard with 1,398 crew members to provide excellent service.
The ship is currently homeported from Southampton, offering a variety of Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Scandinavia, and Norwegian Fjord itineraries. In mid-October, Britannia is scheduled to reposition to Bridgetown, Barbados, to offer Caribbean sailings through the winter months.
More Breakages Recently
Poor weather and gusty winds can be a hazard to docked cruise ships, causing lines to break and ships to drift.
For example, MSC Cruises’ MSC Musica broke free of her moorings in Brazil in February 2023 during a sudden squall, while more recently, high winds caused Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 to drift loose while in Civitavecchia earlier this month, causing both forward and aft gangways to collapse.
In July, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima broke free of rope moorings while docked in Zeebrugge, Belgium, also losing gangways in the incident.
Cruise ship crews are always alert to weather conditions whether a ship is at sea or docked, and are able to closely monitor potentially dangerous conditions. When weather turns foul, gangways will be closed briefly to ensure guests’ safety just in case of these unfortunate incidents.