The UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency has detained the cruiseship Discovery at Portland Port, Dorset, after the crew were unable to launch lifeboats in a pre-cruise safety drill.
The Bermuda-flag, 2,859 dwt cruise vessel was built in 1972 and was operating under its new joint venture partners, All Leisure Holidays and Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
The agency said in a statement: “Following inspections on Friday 1, March, the MCA issued a detention notice on the passengership Discovery, preventing the vessel from sailing at this time.
“This will remain in place while the owners and crew undertake revisions to their safety management system.”
ALH and CMV said they regretted cancelling Discovery’s scheduled 15-night Northern Lights cruise to Norway.
The vessel was scheduled to sail from Avonmouth near Bristol on February 28, 2013 but poor weather en route from Genoa, compounded by tidal restrictions in Bristol, saw Discovery reroute to Portland where passengers embarked.
“Discovery has undergone an extensive drydocking period and due to unusual and unforeseeable circumstances beyond our control and, notwithstanding the recent dry docking, the vessel has encountered technical problems [that] prevent her from sailing,” the cruise firms said.
“We have been unable to resolve these technical issues to enable us to continue with the cruise on time and further works will have to be undertaken to ensure all issues are fully resolved.”
Passengers will receive a full refund of their cruise fare, compensation of £250 ($376) per person and a discount of 40% on a future Discovery cruise if booked by April 30, 2013.
The cruise firms hoped that Discovery would meet its next scheduled departure from Avonmouth on March 15.
The MCA’s move comes after the cases of Costa Concordia and Thomson Majesty highlighted separate safety issues concerning lifeboats.
The Costa Concordia casualty revealed weaknesses in launching lifeboats on either side of vessel in an emergency when a vessel heels over.
The incident on Thomson Majesty revealed critical weaknesses in lowering boats quickly and safely to the waterline.
Skaggerak Foundation accident investigator Arne Sagen told Lloyd’s List recently that the Thomson Majesty incident laid bare “a sort of deadly irony that the system designed to save life becomes the very agent of death and serious injury in a deeply worrying number of casualties”.
He said: “This has been a nightmare for the entire shipping industry since the introduction of totally enclosed lifeboats and the hydrostatic release gear in the 1990s, and a great many fatalities have been reported among those on board the lifeboat as it is lowered or hoisted.”
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