We’ll be covering the MAIB’s 56 page and two annexe MSC Napoli report in more depth anon but a footnote got our immediate attention:
“It was evident during the investigation that the master had placed a great deal of emphasis on the importance of safety drills and the maintenance of lifesaving equipment, and that the preparation and lowering of lifeboats had been well-practiced in accordance with company policy.”
No-one was hurt during the evacuation from the ship, and that may be owed to the seriousness with which the master took safety procedures and drills.
The abandon ship did not go without a hitch, “the crewman sitting nearest the forward painter release could not pull the release pin sufficiently far to allow the painter to disengage. He was squeezed between two other crew and his movement was restricted by his immersion suit. The painter was eventually cut by the chief engineer, who had a knife, and was able to reach the painter via the lifeboat’s forward hatch.”
Conditions in the lifeboat were far from easy: “The motion of the lifeboat was violent and the atmosphere in the lifeboat was very uncomfortable; all of the crew suffered from sea sickness. Although the lifeboat was certified to accommodate up to 32 persons, the 26 crew wearing immersion suits and lifejackets were very cramped. They were very warm and several felt faint and de-hydrated. The situation became more tolerable after the crew cut off the gloves from their immersion suits with the chief engineer’s knife. This allowed them to use their hands more effectively, and they were able to drink from plastic drinking water bottles they had brought with them.”
Says the MAIB report: “The abandonment of a vessel in any conditions is problematic. Therefore, the abandonment and successful recovery of the 26 crew from MSC Napoli, in the severe conditions experienced, is praiseworthy. By the time the master arrived at the lifeboat embarkation position, the crew were on board and wearing immersion suits and lifejackets, the engine was running, extra water had been stowed on board, and VHF radios, SARTs and the EPIRB were ready for use. Despite the vessel rolling heavily the enclosed lifeboat was lowered without incident and then manoeuvred clear of the stricken vessel. Although there were a number of practical issues that should be noted, this successful abandonment clearly demonstrates the importance and value of regular maintenance and drills.”
Sadly, drills are often carried out for the sake of filling in bits of paper, and sometimes not at all, but drills are a pretty good insurance policy.