CRUISE SHIP FEATURE:
Guests returning early from a shore excursion or from exploring a port of call sometimes find their ship surrounded by lifeboats. Perhaps something has happened to the ship or maybe the crew is just passing the time until the guests come back aboard by going on a boat ride. In fact, such displays of seamanship are crew boat drills.
“We have a boat drill once a week,” explains Captain Ole-Johan Gronhaug of Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas. “The purpose of the boat drill is to train the crew, to make quite certain that the crew know what to do in case there is an emergency. The best way to prepare everybody is to have drills, drills, drills so everybody knows exactly what to do.”
The drills also serve to ensure that the lifeboats and other safety equipment are in working order. Typically, a cruise ship will exercise the lifeboats on one side of the ship one week and the boats on the other side the next week.
The boats are lowered into the water, unhooked from their davits and then sailed around the harbor. When the crew have had enough practice driving the boats about, they are once again hooked to the lines from the davits and raised up into place.
On Adventure of the Seas, the crew members manning the lifeboats are not the ship's sailors but rather members of the hotel department including cooks, entertainment staff and housekeeping personnel. “If you have an emergency, the deck department and the engine department will be involved in the emergency. They will be involved in fighting fires etc.” explains Captain Gronhauag. “If you have an emergency where you need to abandon ship, you don't need the cooks to continue any cooking onboard. They are the ones who can be preparing the lifeboats.” Of course, they perform this work under the supervision of one of the ship's officers.
Each lifeboat on Adventure has a capacity of 135 people. A crew of seven serves each boat including a boat commander and assistant commander. Each crew member has a specific set of responsibilities such as unhooking the boat from the lines that connect it to the davits once the boat is in the water. In order to be a boat commander, a crew member must pass both a written and a practical test.
Adventure of the Seas never uses its lifeboats to carry passengers back and forth to the ship in ports of call. “We don't use them at all for tender operation. So if we are in a tender port, we need to have shoreside tender support, which we do when we go to, for example, Villefranche. We have a shoreside tender come along side.”
There are two reasons for this. First, from a practical standpoint, if a boat were to be damaged during tender operations, it would reduce the ship's ability to respond to an emergency. Second, tit would be against the law. “The rulings say strictly that lifeboats cannot be used for tender operation.”
But don't cruise ships, including some Royal Caribbean cruise ships, routinely use their own boats for tendering? Captain Gronhaug answered by pointing out that the boats that such ships use for tendering are specific boats that are actually classified as both tenders and lifeboats.
To illustrate, “the Radiance class vessels have two tenders on each side - - four tenders. They are tenders but they can be used as lifeboats. They have a different capacity when they are used as tenders than when they are used as lifeboats. When you are through with tender operations, they have to be put back exactly in the same condition as lifeboats so they can be used as lifeboats.”
In addition to boats, Adventure's emergency equipment includes liferafts. These are kept in large canisters along the ship's outdoor promenade that look something like depth charges. “The raft we have here is meant to be launched by a crane. But the same raft can be thrown overboard and inflated. So they are dual purpose rafts. But the main purpose is to inflate the raft when it is hanging at the launch site, load them then lower them down to the water.”
During a boat drill, you will often see one of these rafts hanging from a crane over the side of the ship. “That is mainly for the new sign-ons who have not been on ships before. They are trained how to prepare and inflate a raft so they know what to do in case of an emergency.”
Thus, the drills train the crew as to what to do in case of emergency. Moreover, on Adventure, they make clear that safety is everyone's responsibility.
Above: Lowering the port side lifeboats for a drill in Nassau harbor.
Above: The crew practice maneuvering the boats in the space between Adventure of the Seas and Disney Magic.
Above: One of Adventure' s lifeboats maneuvering.
Below: The officer supervising the drill brings the ship's rescue boat takes a closer look at what is happening in another of the lifeboats.
Above: Launching a liferaft.
Above: Additional lifejackets are stored near the lifeboats.
Cruise ship article - - Royal Caribbean - Adventure of the Seas - Crew Boat Drill