Durban - A “shoreman” working on an MSC Opera cruise was seriously injured in a horror accident while ferrying passengers from shore back to the ship in Mozambique on a recent voyage to Barra-Lodge.
Mark Raubenheimer, 60, who was recovering in a Durban hospital, heavily sedated on pain killers, spoke briefly to the Daily News from his ICU bed last week.
However, he said he was not yet well enough to speak about the details of how his leg was lacerated by the propeller from the motor on a rubber dinghy.
Details regarding exactly what happened are murky, but the Daily News understands that the accident on Wednesday, January 29, occured when Raubenheimer was helping launch a boat loaded with passengers off the beach in rough seas from Barra-Lodge back to the cruise liner.
In turbulent water he was evidently pulled under the rubber duck and the propeller lacerated his leg.
A decision was taken not to immediately airlift Raubenheimer back to Durban, and instead he stayed on the vessel for the remainder of the cruise until the ship docked on Friday morning (January 31).
A source close to the cruise industry said the accident occurred after the boat was launched in rough waters, allegedly against the advice of an experienced independent contractor – a professional lifesaver with a surf proficiency award – Malcolm Young, who had apparently insisted to the ship’s captain that conditions were unsafe.
Raubenheimer was one of several people who assist passengers to shore and back, in return for board and lodging.
Young declined to comment or confirm the circumstances surrounding the accident.
MSC Cruises CEO Daphne Osborne said on Sunday that the company had sent representatives to visit Raubenheimer in hospital and that the company had launched an investigation.
Osborne said the incident had been reported to the Maritime Administration and Safety Association in Mozambique (Samar).
“We have offered to assist the Raubenheimers with any immediate help they might require. We have visited Mr Raubenheimer in hospital and offered our assistance,” Osborne said.
“We have requested a full medical report as to what treatment he requires – immediately and ongoing. A full internal inquiry is being conducted… as we are very proud of our safety record and most concerned for the well-being of Mr Raubenheimer,” Osborne said.
Asked why the injured man was not immediately airlifted to hospital, Osborne said the company was waiting for the medical report from the ship’s doctor as part of the ongoing investigation.
“The medical doctor on board makes the decision as to whether an emergency air rescue is required in the instance of a medical emergency. Neither the ship’s command nor anyone else aboard is qualified to make a decision of this nature,” Osborne said.
“There is facility on all MSC ships for a helicopter, but in this instance it appears the independent medical practitioner who was consulted, did not believe... medical air evacuation was required. Had he done so, the patient would certainly have been evacuated by helicopter.”
Osborne said MSC had operated shore landings since 1992 and had safely landed more than one million passengers.
“Over the past years there have been a few minor cuts and bruises, but no other serious injury,” Osborne said.
Osborne said all the ship’s senior officers had internationally recognised master mariners certificates and many years of experience at sea and in command of ocean-going, deep sea ships, including cargo ships and passenger liners.
Osborne said before passengers disembarked they signed a disclaimer acknowledging that they were aware that the transfer to the shore was by tender.
“The ship’s crew and safety officer ensure they are wearing life jackets and they are assisted into the Zodiac from a landing platform. They are then assisted to disembark and again embark at the beach by shoremen in and out of the tenders,” Osborne said.
Osborne said Young was not required to have any seafaring qualifications as his duties were on the shore side.
She said it was his responsibility to ensure that the shoremen were suitable for what was required of them at the beach on landing day.
“The shoremen are volunteers employed by an independent contractor, Malcolm Young, who volunteer to sail free on the cruise in return for volunteering to assist with the transfers at the beach,” said Osborne.
She said Young had for many years secured suitable volunteers to undertake shoremen duties to assist passengers on and off the rubber dinghies at the beach.
However, she said Young’s contract had been terminated last Friday when the ship arrived back in Durban because he had allegedly not adhered to the code of conduct in the terms of his contract.
“The termination of his contract was nothing to do with this accident, rather (due to) his behaviour in front of our guests and towards the ship’s command,” Osborne said.
Raubenheimer’s son Dane declined to comment on the accident.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) principal officer in Durban, Mladen Brkovic, said the accident had not been reported to the authority.
However, he said Samsa would now report the incident to Samar and to the regulatory authority of the ship’s flag state, Panama.