Early reports from delegates at the 52nd meeting of the International Maritime Organisation’s Sub-Committee on the design of equipment, DE, indicate that significant progress has been made on lifeboat safety under the Life Saving Appliance Code, LSA.
An industry executive tells MAC that the draft language is ‘satisfactory’, but will still had to be approved by the IMO in plenary session.
The last year’s session was met with severe disappointment by the industry when safety issues fell off the agenda under pressure and was dominated by moves to ensure the existence and profitability of the third-party lifeboat maintenance sector.
Lifeboat accidents have increased dramatically, especially during drills, since the introduction of poorly thought-out on-load release hook regulations. Under the regulations, lifeboat releases were designed to fail into an unsafe condition if something went wrong. Lifeboats are not regarded as ‘people carriers’, like building lifts and equipment used in the offshore industry which must ‘fail to safe’ if something goes wrong.. As a result, failure of the release hooks frequently causes serious injury or death.
Incidents have been blamed on poor training and maintenance by seafarers but poor lifeboat design, unclear signage, badly written manuals, operating procedures, and poorly designed release systems are common. Counterfeit equipment and ‘copycat’ releases made of under-specification materials are addition factors.