UK MAIB investigation report: Lifeboat failure on polar research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough


( On 4 March 2021, while Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough was at anchor on Loch Buie, Isle of Mull, Scotland, three of its crew members sustained minor injuries when a lifeboat fell into the sea during a familiarisation launch. The three crewmen were inside the port lifeboat and had used its remote control system to start the launch.

The lifeboat fell from the davit onto the ship’s deck and was dragged over the side by the moving davit arms before it detached from its hooks. The crew on the deck of RRS Sir David Attenborough were unable to halt the launch sequence and prevent the lifeboat from falling into the water.

The accident occurred because a safety interlock had not automatically reset after a previous test of the lifeboat launch system. When the remote control system was activated the winch brake released out of sequence and caused the lifeboat to prematurely lower from the davits during the launch.

Sir David Attenborough had recently been handed over from the shipbuilder, Cammell Laird Limited, to the Natural Environment Research Council and British Antarctic Survey. The launching of the lifeboat was the first opportunity for the crew to practice the procedure at sea.

The investigation found that the required checks and planned maintenance on the davit had not been completed since it had been installed on the ship. The installation of the davit had not been fully completed in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications but had been accepted by the approving authorities.

Following the accident, Sir David Attenborough returned to the builder’s yard and completed a period of defect rectification that included completion of the davit installation.

British Antarctic Survey has: modified its system of launching lifeboats for the purpose of training and drills so that launch and recovery is undertaken without embarked crew; rewritten the operating instructions for lifeboats in the Safety of Life at Sea manual, taking advice from Norsafe AS as the original equipment manufacturer; and written additional checklists for both the launching and recovery of the lifeboat.

Viking Life-Saving Equipment Ltd has: fitted a new tension weight and wire clamp and installed a training mode remote control system that meets the SOLAS requirement.

Recommendations have been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to review its process for delegating Safety Equipment Surveys to Recognised Organisations to provide assurance that surveys have been carried out effectively and in compliance with SOLAS regulations. Also, to review its delegation policy to consider whether it is appropriate to delegate initial surveys.

For more details, click below to download the full UK MAIB investigation report:



Source: MAIB




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