TAIC report reveals burst nitrogen cylinder killed Emerald Princess crewmember

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Bahnfrend

New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has published its report on the February 9, 2017, accident in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, on board the cruise ship Emerald Princess, in which a nitrogen cylinder burst, causing one fatality.

On the said date, the crew of Emerald Princess were re-pressurising the gas cylinders after maintenance of a stored energy system providing an alternative means of launching lifeboats in the event of power failure. A crewmember died when a nitrogen cylinder burst at below normal working pressure.

It was discovered that the cylinder casing had become weakened by corrosion and was reduced to about 30 per cent of its original thickness. The failed cylinder and several others in the system were not fit for purpose despite having been surveyed recently and should not have been in service.

The TAIC report highlights and explains two safety issues:

  • The lack of global minimum standards for inspection, testing, and rejecting pressure cylinders for stored energy systems on lifeboat launching installations. Hence, there is wide variation in, and sometimes inadequate, standards applied by flag state administrations, classification societies, and authorised service providers.
  • Technicians who are authorised to conduct mandatory annual and five-yearly inspections of lifeboat-launching installations are not required to have specific training and certification for inspecting any stored energy-release systems and their associated pressure cylinders.

TAIC made two new recommendations:

  • That the manufacturer of the lifeboat launching system improve training
  • That Maritime New Zealand raise with the International Maritime Organization the urgent global need for adequate minimum standards for the inspection, testing, and rejection of pressure vessels that are part of stored energy systems

The report also details a number of safety actions taken by the operator of Emerald Princess and other relevant authorities to prevent a recurrence of the accident on any of its ships.


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