Thu | Jul 7, 2022

‘PREMATURE’

As Bartlett points to pilot error, PAJ cautions against hasty conclusion in cruise ship accident probe

Published:Saturday | May 28, 2022 | 1:02 AM
A screen grab from an amateur video posted to social media, reportedly showing the moment when the ‘Harmony of the Seas’ crashed into the Historic Falmouth cruise pier on Thursday.
A screen grab from an amateur video posted to social media, reportedly showing the moment when the ‘Harmony of the Seas’ crashed into the Historic Falmouth cruise pier on Thursday.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett yesterday blamed pilot error for Thursday morning’s incident in which Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas cruise vessel crashed into the dock at Historic Falmouth in Trelawny, but the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) has slammed any such utterances as premature.

The Oasis-class Harmony of the Seas, the world’s third-largest cruise ship, hit a mooring dolphin as it approached the port, resulting in what has been determined to be minor damage to the vessel.

In a release yesterday, the PAJ noted that the mooring dolphin was displaced and will require reconstruction, adding that its engineers were doing further assessments of the damage to determine how repairs would be effected. It remains unclear as to who will foot the bill for the repairs as Section 8 of the country’s Pilotage Act states that the PAJ is “not liable for loss caused by pilot or apprentice”.

But speaking with The Gleaner yesterday at the opening of the Edward Seaga Suite at Devon House in St Andrew and the relaunching of the Devon Duppy Rum, Bartlett said that repairs were under way.

“We are repairing the damaged areas at the port now. The divers are there now recovering the broken elements and we should be back in full order for the ships that come next week,” he said, blaming the incident on pilot error.

Harbour pilots are port staff who guide ships and vessels through congested waters of a port or harbour at locations which are particularly difficult to dock.

They have detailed knowledge and experience in the waterways that they help direct vessels through and are brought on board a vessel as it arrives or departs to direct the ship into place or out of the port using their expert knowledge of the location.

Bartlett said Friday’s incident occurred when the pilot was badly directed while attempting to dock the vessel.

“The pilot, I understand, misjudged ... and it damaged the moorings on the wharf,” he told The Gleaner.

But the PAJ cautioned against such claims, noting that it was still undertaking a joint investigation with Royal Caribbean into the cause of the incident.

“Pending the investigation, any determination of the cause of the incident is premature at this time and we, therefore, urge all parties to refrain from any speculation in this regard,” the authority said.

The PAJ noted that the Pilotage Act provides for the appointment of an investigator, who probes such incidents and present the findings to the authority after which an enquiry will be held. Pilots are also required to immediately file accident reports and assist with any investigation.

“The good news is that nobody got hurt and the damage was minimal to the vessel and it was able to continue its journey unfazed and really unaffected,” Bartlett said.

The PAJ said that despite the damage, normal operations at the port are to continue and cruise schedules will not need adjustments.

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