Jan 312009


Lifeboat safety has been something of a hotbutton for MAC almost since we started so we were happy to hear that the North of England P&I Club, NEPIA,has released a DVD and poster on the issue. It’s an issue that certainly needs more attention than it gets.

Many seafarers lack confidence in lifeboats and it is not unknown for masters to avoid lifeboat drills, and even falsify records, to protect their crews. The lack of drills worsens the situation but one must have some sympathy.

A key problem is on-load release systems, some just badly designed, others downright dangerous. Few shore-based administrations would permit a people carrying device to fail to a dangerous condition when something goes wrong. It is only permitted in the maritime industry – not only permitted but mandatory.

Common sense dictates that this situation would be considered a matter of urgency. Wrong. On-Load release hooks were slated on an MSC agenda last year but discussion was abandoned because it was deemed far more important for third-party lifeboat maintenance companies to be profitable than for seafarers to survive.

One attendee told MAC: “DE51 meeting in Bonn at which various issues, including lifeboats and on-load release hooks were under discussion.… this has been a very frustrating session. There has basically been no movement on the hook issue, there has been lots of talk but no real change… it has become frustrating to see IMO not tightening design requirements to ensure that the hook manufacturers who are providing unsafe hooks are kept in line.”

Poor training, inadequate procedures and some downright dumb actions, like by-passing safety devices on winches, as well as inadequate maintenance, shoddy manuals, questionable lifeboat design and below-spec copycat equipment have combined to make the situation very messy indeed.

˜Accidents during lifeboat drills cause death and serious injury to seafarers,’ says NEPIA’s head of loss prevention, Tony Baker, ˜We fully support the maritime administrations and other organisations that are seeking to promote the use of fall-preventer devices as an interim safety measure.’

According to the club, a planned port-state-control inspection campaign for 2009 will target lifeboat maintenance and records, operational safety, on-load release systems, davits and winches as well as the critical area of lifeboat training. To help members reduce the risks of accidents and ensure crew are properly prepared for such inspections, North has produced and distributed an 18-minute DVD designed to be used as the basis of a short, sharp briefing prior to lifeboat drills.
˜The DVD is intended to boost the confidence of seafarers and improve levels of safety when undergoing lifeboat training,’ says Baker. ˜It explores common causes of lifeboat accidents, such as not being able to release the lifeboat painter, and explains the growing use of fall-preventer devices to reduce serious incidents following inadvertent release of on-load lifeboat hook-release mechanisms.’

Lifeboat Safety – Managing the Risks, the new DVD, includes a 12-page guidance booklet for officers leading the briefings, helping them to understand the messages the crew should think about to stay safe. ˜These are simple control measures that, in addition to the basic SOLAS requirements, should significantly reduce the number and severity of lifeboat accidents,’ says Baker.

NEPIA has also published a new lifeboat safety poster as part of its Safe Work series. The A3 poster also illustrates the use of fall-preventer devices to protect the crew in the event of an inadvertent release of on-load release hooks – though the club points out such devices should only be fitted after consulting with the ship operator and relevant authorities.

Lifeboat Safety – Managing the Risks, and the Safe Work set of eight posters, are both available to non-members for £30 each from Anchorage Press in London, www.anchoragepress.co.uk.

MAC’s own recommendations include:

  • Always wear a hard hat, properly fitted, when entering a totally enclosed lifeboat.
  • Carry, do not wear, lifejackets into the lifeboat.
  • Never, ever, for any reason, disable or short across any safe devices on winches when someone is in the lifeboat (Or at any other time for that matter).
  • Before entering a lifeboat and following recovery after a drill, ensure that hooks are properly engaged. If this is difficult to determine consider alterations, with class society approval if necessary, which will indicate when hooks are properly engaged.
  • If it is difficult to reset the hooks find out why. Under no circumstances use a cheater bar or pipe to force them into position.

You’ll find more information in our podcasts and posts:


The Case Of The Deadly Saviour

The Case Of The Killer Catch

The Case Of The Fall From Grace

The Case Of The Fallen Saviour


Australian Maritime Safety Authority: Prevention of accidents with lifeboats

Lifeboat hooks not fit for purpose – Worldwide

IMO’s hook fails to load

Lifeboats – Who gives a f*** ?

Freefall release fears shut platform

Free Fall Lifeboat Hazards – A Drop In The Ocean

Praiseworthy MSC Napoli Crew Knew The Drill

Lifeboats – The Pinto Of The Sea


Pesbo response on lifeboats and LSA Code

Pretty scary lifeboat picture


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