All about unsafe, hazardous, not seaworthy

M/S "Harmony of the Seas"
and people killed aboard 13 September 2016


Anders Björkman of Heiwa Co - European Agency for Safety at Sea!


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M/S Harmony of the Seas (above) is a very ugly ship or rather a barge built 2016 by STX France at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France for ship-owner Royal Caribbean International. With a gross tonnage of 226.963 GT, she is the largest and most unsafe passenger ship/barge in the world, surpassing her sister ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

It is a Bahamas flag of convenience ship/barge = no safety rules apply.

The ship has a crew/staff of 2 300 persons to cater for 6 780 passengers at maximum capacity. So there can be 9 080 persons aboard. According to the Safety of Life at Sea, SOLAS, rules these persons should in an emergency be evacuated into lifeboats and life rafts in 30 minutes. One person - the Master - is responsible for it and everything else aboard according to recent M/S Costa Concordia jurisprudence. The ship-owner Royal Caribbean International and its staff, the people of maritime flag administration and port states are therefore not responsible of anything. You should wonder what people cruise on this wreck? Answer is silly twerps, millions of them, loving cheap, unsafe cruises.

I am of course sorry to inform that the ship does not comply with these SOLAS rules. But the barge has exemption certificates of all sorts so it can sail ... unseaworthy!

The SOLAS rules are very simple since say 1960. I have during my 45+ years career certified at least 30+ at starts of operations after modifications of all kinds.

Cargo ships engaged in international voyages must today have lifeboats for 100% of the total capacity of people onboard at each side, i.e. total capacity for 200% in lifeboats. And then liferafts should be available for crew that may miss the lifeboat. It does not cost much.

Passengerships gets away with only 75% of people aboard in lifeboats (the passengers) with the rest (the staff) in rafts to be towed by the lifeboats. Ropax ferries and cargo ships carrying pilgrims on international voyages have different requirements, but the basic rule is that all aboard should be able to leave the ship during 30 minutes without jumping into the water. Ships on national voyages, e.g. going to Gotland from the Swedish mainland with >2 000 passengers aboard, need no lifeboats because the Swedish Maritime administration (Franson) thinks it is safe.

SOLAS states that the maximum capacity for a lifeboat shall be 150 persons. It is a very big weight. If you carry more people in a lifeboat ... you are not as per SOLAS.

M/S El Salam 89

So 1991 I designed six pairs of new davits for ship M/S El Salam 89 (left) that was converted and upgraded 1992 at Port Said! I actually planned the complete conversion of the roro ship St Clair (bought 1990 as a CTL after a fire at Marseille) to a 2.000 passengers ropax ferry El Salam 89 and supervised all works, which took two years 1990/2. It was great fun.

The Egyptian flag, RINA classed ship then carried millions of happy pilgrims Suez/Jeddah until 2007, when we removed the passenger accommodation deckhouse and all lifeboats making the ship roro again for 12 pax and 100+ trailers! She was sold for further trading 2011.

Each pair of new davits was for a 150 person lifeboat bought second hand. A davit arm is just a box of steel with wheels at the bottom and top. The arms were tested both in the workshop and when fitted aboard in the trackways prior rigging the wires and hooks to handle the boat with a winch/brake on deck.

Then you could winch up the empty boat. Final testing was with the boat lowered to embarkation deck level where, it was loaded with total 11.250 kg of sandbags representing 150 people. And then you lowered the loaded boat into the water. It was quite a job and it was repeated every five years at special surveys. The ship also carried some smaller lifeboats with existing davits.

One lifeboat was lowered and demonstrated to the passengers at every 40 hrs trip Suez/Jeddah/Suez, so all boats were lowered and demonstrated and davits were tested 100's of times in service. No problems were ever encountered.

So with 9 080 persons aboard M/S Harmony of the Sea, you should have total 45 lifeboats for a normal passengership. Looking at the picture above you do not see 22 or 23 lifeboats on one side - only 9!

So how it is possible that the M/S Harmony of the Seas has only 18 lifeboats?

The ship-owner says that the SOLAS regulations do actually provide procedures for using lifeboats of greater capacity (as en exemption?) providing it can be demonstrated that they have an equivalent level of safety. The ship-owner says it uses 370-persons lifeboats and davit systems developed by Schat-Harding. As a result of this mysterious exception/exemption only 18 new 'Mega' lifeboats are being carried on the ship. Yes, why not?

The capacity of this amazing lifeboat carried on two decks and loaded at two levels is thus 370 persons. This big boat does not require moving from a stowed position to a loading position during evacuation and completely different davits (!) are used, it is said! But how do you launch it ... with 370 persons (28 tons) aboard? I do not know. Maybe it is dropped straight down? There are no davits.

Yes! You push a button and the boat drops down into the water. Magic!! And then?

The ship-owner says that 19 crew will assist 351 passengers to board each lifeboat. Total 342 crew/staff members aboard are trained to evacuate passengers from the muster stations to these 'Mega' lifeboats.

And one of the 19 crew aboard pushes the button and ... they all drop into the water.

This is 2016 safety at sea! Push a button!

One crew member died and four others were injured on 13 September, 2016, when one such lifeboat (?) was detached (sic - dropped?) from the ship at the port of Marseille during an exercise. I assume the lifeboat was destroyed. Hopefully the ship will be detained at Marseille ... forever. Or did media report wrongly ... as usual? Probably - see below at the bottom end!

The capacity of 18 'Mega' lifeboats for 370 persons is thus 6 660 or about only 73.3% of 9 080 persons! Shouldn't it be >75%?

So what about the 2 420 persons to use life rafts? Are standard, regulatory crane launched 25 persons rafts used? 100 (!) rafts thrown into the water. Hm, compare the M/S Estonia 1994! Then most aboard should jump into the water and swim to the rafts ... the "Franson" solution!

The life rafts launching arrangements have also been amended according to the ship-owner. A chute arrangement from the weather deck to the water will be deployed as another exemption. This chute contains baffles intended to slow the 2.420 person's progress ... into the water ... or hopefully something floating down there. Six big rubber 400 persons rafts to be towed away by a 370-persons lifeboat? The idea is that this would mainly be used by crew and staff rather than untrained passengers according to the ship-owner. I have no further details of this chutes/baffles/rafts arrangements. I wonder if it has been tested. 2.420 persons sliding down during 30 minutes ... where?

Testing LSA is fun! I have done it many times a sunny afternoon in port. It is not the same as a stormy, dark, cold night at 2 hrs am with the ship on fire while sinking after having collided with a fully loaded oil tanker ... also on fire ... with its oil cargo ablaze on the three meters waves. The worst case scenario.

The rule for actual mustering all passengers and crew into lifeboats and life rafts is only 30 minutes. When the General Alarm is raised all persons aboard gather at once at the muster stations with personal belongings and life preservers and are counted. When the Abandon ship order is given all persons are escorted to lifeboats and ... chutes ... and are dropped or slid into the water. The Master is supposed to be the last to leave the ship ... via a chute? ... but it is prefered that he remains aboard, when the ship sinks. He is responsible and shall pay!

If >9 000 persons on the M/S Harmony of the Seas can abandon the ship is 30 minutes is not certain. Has it been tested? Probably not! Nobody seems to give a damn about it! If you object, you'll be fired at once. There are other priorities.

The ship-owner Royal Caribbean International says it has launched a search for godmother (not a Mafia godfather!) for the ship, M/S Harmony of the Seas.

"Harmony of the Seas will make her U.S. debut this November 2016 when she arrives into her new homeport of Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., introducing a new era of vacationing that will thrill guests of all ages. To celebrate, the South Florida-based cruise line is partnering with South Florida ABC affiliate Local 10 to look in their own backyard for a woman who is inspiring the next generation to dream big, think differently and challenge the status quo, and has launched a contest to honor this hometown hero by naming her godmother of Harmony of the Seas,"

the company said in a statement.

South Florida residents are encouraged to visit and nominate a mentor, educator or teacher whose passion for education and a better tomorrow inspires students to make a positive impact on the world.

The winner will not only be honored as godmother of M/S Harmony of the Seas during the ship's official naming ceremony on November 10, 2016, but a $25,000 grant will also be awarded to her school or non-profit organisation to fund education initiatives that will further her mission to inspire South Florida's youth, the company said.

Imagine to baptize a ship that is unsafe and not fit to go to sea. She should name the ship the Hazard of the Seas!

It is therefore recommended that the US Department of Homeland Security, or its branch US Coast Guard does a Port State Control of the ship at its first visit in USA and prior departure with 6 600+ happy passengers to ensure that the lifesaving appliances work. Terrorists may be hiding aboard! You never know! Don't arrest the stupid godmother, though!

It is also recommended that USCG checks the watertight doors in the hull. There should not be any according to SOLAS but if there are 90+, they should be permanently closed at sea. Why a Bahamas flag and certfied passenger ship can have 90+ watertight doors in the hull that are kept open in port and are locked closed at sea is not a mystery for me. The ship is simply not seaworthy at any time but issued with exemption certificates of all kind. Like the M/S Costa Concordia (scrapped) and her four sisters (still sailing around with open watertight doors).

But the M/S Harmony of the Seas accident at Marseille? 13 September 2016! One killed, four injured, two seriously. What about it?

It probably didn't concern a 370 persons Mega lifeboat! No lifeboat?

The M/S Harmony of the Seas LSA arrangement is just bla, bla, bla to keep the ship-owner happy.

No, it was probably just another fast rescue lifeboat fatality. I describe it at Dangerous Fast Rescue Boat, FRB, should not be regarded as Means of Rescue; it kills seamen 2000 - 2016.

Nobody is responsible if people are killed by FRBs! Happens all the time.

Safety at sea doesn't get worse, it gets sillier all the time. Since 16 years! Or more!

Reason is that nobody gives a damn about it any longer. Thanks to "Franson"!

The Master M/S Harmony of the Seas, responsible for everything, should of course have been arrested and the ship stopped at Marseille and the 6 000+ passengers sent home.

But it didn't happen.

16 September 2016 nobody knows what happened, so media suggest "human error".

So someone in an illegal, 317 persons lifeboat or a useless, five persons Fast Rescue Boat (media have no idea what) commited 13 September 2016 a human error, the boat dropped 10 meters into the sea killing and injuring five people. So what kind of "human error" was it?

An why isn't the Master in jail? Who is she/he? Has she/he a lover or mistress aboard? Can't media report properly?

The Master is responsible for 9079 persons lives, one dies, the Master is responsible, but media cannot report who it is.

Left is a recent picture of the ship somewhere with port side #2 and #4 lifeboats not in place. Maybe they were used to tender passengers ashore, when the picture was taken?

Also #14 port lifeboat is missing, so it may also be used for something

Question remains - did one of these Mega lifeboats drop into the sea at Marseille 13 September 2016 or was it just an FRB?

Another question - why not use the chutes so that the passengers can slide into the water in port and swim ashore?

Anders Björkman, 15 September, 2016