Responding to the recent ParisMOU Concentrated Inspection Campaign reports, Franki Larsson, Intertanko’s Marine Manager criticised lifeboat manufacturers for placing liability above seafarer safety and that still no way exists to evacuate seafarers reliably and safely from ships. His letter, responding to the conclusions of a Paris MOU CIC on lifeboat safety appeared in a recent Lloyd’s List and is reproduced in the current electronic edition of Maritime Executive:
I was amused reading the article in LL about the Paris MOU’s press release on the outcome of its Concentrated Inspection Campaign on lifeboat arrangements. I was particularly amused reading the following in the press release itself: ‘Of the procedures or instructions and identification of hazards associated with launching and recovery of lifeboats, one out of 6 was found unsatisfactory. These are related to the safety management system on board the ship’.
I have no reason to doubt that one out of six procedures or instructions and identification of hazards associated with launching and recovery of lifeboats was found unsatisfactory. However, it is well-known among seafarers that operating a lifeboat is seriously dangerous, as the many deaths of seafarers every year demonstrates! Therefore, the question we have to ask ourselves is why this is happening? Is it the seafarers’ fault? The shipowners’? The manufacturers’? The regulator’s? Or a combination of all?
For decades the IMO has tried to answer above questions, but the tragic fact is that it hasn’t got the answers right. Another sad fact is that manufacturers blame the shipowners for not maintaining the equipment and for not training their crews, while shipowners blame the manufacturers for designing and producing poor equipment. Clearly nobody wants to take responsibility, although under SOLAS, liability rests with the shipowner!
Fortunately, all is not gloom as the LSA working group at IMO last year agreed on a set of new functional requirements for a new generation of hooks, including a requirement for the hook mechanism to be designed so that the hook and locking mechanism remains fully closed under any operational conditions until it is deliberately caused to open by means of the operating mechanism. Until such hooks are available and installed in a process which will become mandatory and which will take a couple of years, IMO recommends the use of a Fall Preventer Device (FPD) i.e. strops or similar to prevent lifeboats falling of their hooks when they open inadvertently – something which happens far too often with some types of hook. From the shipowners’ side, both the new hook and the use of the FPD are welcomed and supported.
It is of course very sad that some manufacturers recommend against the use of FPDs for reasons of liability. These manufacturers should consider that if the hook fails, then the lifeboat will definitely fall uncontrolled! But if a FPD is applied then the uncontrolled fall could be prevented – thus their name. Even so, some manufacturers still do not recommend FPDs.
Coming back to the sentence which amused me – the one which said that one of six procedures or instructions and identification of hazards associated with launching and recovery of lifeboats was found unsatisfactory. What really is unsatisfactory, in my view, is the whole system, including design, operating procedures, maintenance schemes, regulatory requirements and the lack of willingness among certain parties to accept responsibility and liability; and most of all, the fact that we have yet to find a way to get our crews off a ship in a safe and reliable manner when and if a ship ever needs to be abandoned. I am not convinced that the answer is the traditional type of lifeboat, as we know it today!
Marine Manager, INTERTANKO
MAC’s comment:The vows of silence taken by lifeboat manufacturers regarding the safety records of their equipment is inexcusable. Lifeboat manufacturers have decline to seek adequate solutions and are, therefore, part of the problem.