Storm-battered Cruise Ship Deemed 'Fit to Sail' After Passenger's Death

February 17, 2014
cruise-marco-polo (2:30 p.m. EST) -- A number of inspections and investigations have been carried out or are underway following a passenger's death on a Cruise & Maritime Voyages cruise ship.

CMV's ship, Marco Polo, was hit by a "freak" wave Friday (February 14) that shattered windows in the ship's Waldorf Restaurant, killing one elderly passenger and seriously injuring another.

When Marco Polo returned to port in Tilbury, the Port Health Authority carried out an inspection, according to the line, and following repairs to the windows and flooded carpets, it was deemed fit to sail on its next cruise, which departed Sunday (February 16). Authorities for the ship's flag state, the Bahamas, as well as UK Police and the line's own management are undertaking separate investigations into the incident.

A statement from CMV said: "The authorities commenced their own independent investigations and boarded the vessel in Tilbury on Sunday morning. The Bahamas Flag Administration sent a marine surveyor to the ship to carry out an investigation which included interviewing the Master and the crew involved in the navigation of the vessel and its operation.

"The UK police interviewed the master and are conducting a separate investigation for the UK coroner. There was also attendance from the Port Health authority to inspect the vessel's health systems.

"These authorities have the power to detain the vessel had they been of the opinion following their inspection of the vessel that the company or the master had been in breach of their safety obligations during the bad weather incident or that the vessel should not sail or was in any way unseaworthy ... If there had been any issue regarding the vessel's ability to go to sea, then CMV would have not hesitated to have cancelled the next cruise."

The BBC has named the passenger who was killed in the incident as James Swinstead, 85, from Colchester in the UK. The outlet interviewed Swinstead's widow, Helen, who criticized the ship as being "badly maintained."

CMV have stressed that the 22,000-ton, 800-passenger ship is in full compliance with "stringent and rigorous" maritime regulations and safety checks required by international law.

The seriously injured passenger, a woman in her 70s, was airlifted off the ship and taken to a hospital. According to a spokesman from the line, she is "fully recovered from her injuries.

"We have sent her passport across to her and she is on the way home," he said.

Marco Polo was on the last day of a 42-night voyage to South America and the Caribbean when it was caught in heavy swell near the English Channel. The ship is currently on a 14-night Northern Lights cruise to Norway, with 791 passengers onboard.

--by Jamey Bergman, UK Production Editor