17 Jan 2019

Emerald Princess cruise ship explosion in Dunedin 'was preventable' - TAIC

12:40 pm on 17 January 2019

Filipino cruise ship worker Allan Navales' death in a gas cylinder blast on a docked cruise ship was preventable, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission says.

The Emerald Princess berthed at Port Chalmers.

The Emerald Princess docked at Port Chalmers, Dunedin. Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

The commission today released its final report into the events which led to the 32-year-old father's death, singling out lack of training and inspection standards.

Mr Navales was refilling a nitrogen cylinder on board Emerald Princess, which was docked in Dunedin in February 2017, when the cylinder exploded, killing him.

The commission's chief investigator, Captain Tim Burfoot, said the cylinder should not have been in use.

"The nitrogen cylinder burst at below-normal working pressure because its casing had corroded to about 30 percent of original thickness," Mr Burfoot said.

"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 commission's investigation revealed one of the reasons the cylinders might still have been in use was a total lack of international standards for inspecting and testing pressurised gas cylinders on ships.

"The final report has now identified that actually one of the reasons for the lack of testing is there's no global standards and they would normally come from the International Maritime Organisation," Mr Burfoot said.

"So there's no global standards that can be applied to the inspection and testing of these bottles."

The commission urged Maritime New Zealand to request implementation of global standards on inspecting and testing pressurised gas cylinders on ships by the International Maritime Organisation.

The cylinders were used in the hydraulic launch system of the ship's lifeboats, and the commission recommended the manufacturer of the launch system also improve its training.

Mr Navales' death might have been prevented if the right training and standards were in place, Mr Burfoot said.

"All deaths are preventable and that's the business the commission is in," he said.

"Our aim is to take the lessons from this, which is what we've done and we've put them out urgently to prevent another [explosion] happening again."

Princess Cruise Lines, which operates Emerald Princess and a fleet of about 20 cruise ships from Bermuda, is also before the Dunedin District Court in relation to the death.

The company pleaded guilty to a charge brought under the Maritime Transport Act after an investigation by Maritime New Zealand found failings which had led to unnecessary danger or risk to people.

More than 3000 people were on board Emerald Princess when it docked in Dunedin in February 2017. Mr Navales was the only fatality in the blast.

Maritime NZ has sought $812,000 for Mr Navales' family through the court, but accepts such reparations are unlikely.

The offence also carries a maximum penalty of $100,000 fine.

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