USCG Will Inspect Anthem of the Seas For Storm Damage
The U.S. Coast Guard has announced that it will inspect the cruise ship Anthem of the Seas when she returns to Cape Liberty, New Jersey on Wednesday evening. The agency said that a team of inspectors will examine the ship to “verify the extent of damages and ensure repairs are satisfactorily completed” before the Anthem is allowed to leave port again.
The USCG has the authority to inspect vessels for purposes of Port State Control, but “Anthem of the Seas is a Bahamian-flagged vessel and Bahamian investigators will take the lead in the investigation,” the USCG said.
The Coast Guard added that the vessel was still maneuverable and seaworthy.
The Anthem of the Seas suffered damage to her interior on Sunday in a storm off Cape Hatteras, when she experienced seas in the range of 30 feet and wind gusts of over 100 knots, according to on-board meteorological instruments. Her 4,500 passengers were confined to their cabins during the worst of the storm; only minor injuries were reported. Royal Caribbean chose to divert the Anthem back to her home port, Cape Liberty, instead of continuing her planned seven day voyage to the Bahamas.
The Anthem's presence off Cape Hatteras at the time of the storm has attracted scrutiny from elected officials like Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, who has called for an investigation. "The thing about this storm was that it was forecast for days. So why in the world would a cruise ship with thousands of passengers go sailing right into it?" the senator said Monday.
The National Transportation Safety Board told media that Senator Nelson had asked the agency to fold an investigation of the Anthem into its inquiry into the loss of the ro/ro El Faro. “[The El Faro] investigation includes a weather group that is investigating TOTE Maritime's decision-making processes regarding vessel operations in hurricanes and other heavy weather occurrences. The Anthem of the Seas incident may provide us an additional opportunity to learn best practices that cruise line operators employ for operating in heavy weather,” said the NTSB.
Anthem Captain Claus Andersen filmed a discussion of the storm, widely available on video as of yesterday. “We were supposed to have around four to five meter seas, which is 12-15 feet,” he said, with winds of of 40-50 knots. “It developed so quickly. That was the special thing. In eight or nine hours it goes from being nothing to a full-blown storm.”
However, Ryan Maue, a digital meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, disagreed with Captain Andersen's assessment that the conditions off Cape Hatteras were worse than predicted. He told NJ.com that “the storm was well forecast by many different weather models from every agency. This was not a surprise to anyone watching the weather on a daily basis.”
NOAA spokeswoman Susan Buchanan told media that alerts regarding the storm were issued beginning Friday, with an official warning product issued Saturday.