Maritime Accident Casebook understands that a forthcoming report on the Ocean Ambassador lifeboat tragedy will conclude that the Survival Systems International Triple 5 on-load release hook fitted to the lifeboat was not responsible.
Onload release hooks are regarded as a major contributor to lifeboat accidents. The Ocean Ambassador tragedy, in which two people were killed and two seriously injured when a lifeboat fell while being recovered aboard the semisubmersible, has attracted attention throughout the industry because of the long positive safety record of the Triple 5 hook.
The official report into the incident was finalised in December 2010 and is currently being reviewed and prepared for translation in order to be released to the maritime community.
Maritime Accident Casebook will provide details of the report once it has been formally released.
Protected by a lack of data on lifeboat deaths and injuries the majority of flag states are dragging their collective feet on improving the chances of seafarers surviving lifeboat drills. BIMCO is recommending a go-it-alone strategy among its members to rig fall protection devices.
BIMCO’s views are supported by a vast swathe of the maritime industry, what it refers to as a “historical alliance of seafarers, shipowners and P&I interests”.
In a recent commentary to its members BIMCO says: “The IMO Intersessional Working Group on Lifeboat Release Hooks (ISWG LRH) met in London at the IMO headquarters from 20-22 October 2010. At the ISWG LHR the industry observers lead the flag states in a desire to save the lives of seafarers. Unfortunately, the unusual, even historical alliance of seafarers, shipowners and P&I interests did not mange to get their views heard by the majority of flag states. The fact that no international statistics were available made BIMCO feel that there was a need for more detailed knowledge about accidents with on-load release hooks on lifeboats and the use of fall preventer devices (FPDs).
Mad Rock Marine Solutions Inc., which manufactures emergency evacuation technologies for marine environments, has partnered with Memorial University of Newfoundland’s MUN Safety and Risk Engineering Group to develop a Failure Mode Effect Analysis, FMEA, tool for lifeboat release gear systems.
MUN’s Safety and Risk Engineering group is a leading research team in the area of fault diagnosis, failure analysis and risk assessment in offshore oil and gas and process industries. Dr. Fiasal Khan heads the team that is working closely with Mad Rock develop this tool.
Make sure that the interlock lever is in the locked position every time after the MOB boat has been used and before releasing the lashings of the boat during drills says Sweden’s Transport Agency. The warning comes after an accident during a drill involving a Schat-Harding MOB boat which fell 14 metres from its davits with three crew onboard.
The incident occurred because the interlock lever on the hydrostatic unit did not work.
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:
Canada-based marine evacuation technologies firm Mad Rock has teamed up withlifeboat service organisation Oceanwide Safety at Sea of the Netherlands, which is moving into building hyperbaric lifeboats and sells rescue crafts, custom designed workboats and second hand lifeboats.
Hyperbaric lifeboats, HLBs, enable divers to evacuate from pressurized environments on board ships in an emergency. The HLB includes all ancillary equipment, including life?support systems giving independent survival for up to 72 hours.
Mad Rock has partnered with Oceanwide to install the RocLoc 12 tonne on its hyperbaric new builds. Oceanwide SaS is also a trained service centre for Mad Rock hooks.
Dean Pelley, CEO and President of Mad Rock says “We are Our work together started with Oceanwide providing us with installation and service assistance. Now they have become a valued customer. It is a great way to build a strong partnership.”
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One of MAC’s friends in the lifeboat sector (Yes, we do have a few) gives a gloomy report on this week’s International Maritime Organisation DE51 meeting in Bonn at which various issues, including lifeboats and on-load release hooks were under discussion.
“I am presently at the IMO right now… 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.”
It is disappointing, to say the least when it is, as us Brits would say ‘bleedin’ obvious’ that the issue needs to be addressed with firmness, but the IMO is itself hamstrung by its need to operate through consensus, never a very efficient way to get things done.
The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), through a recently published Marine Information Notice (MIN), recommends that a system should be introduced whereby maintenance shackles are rigged to by-pass lifeboat on-load release hooks during the lowering and recovery stages of lifeboat drills.
Marine Information Notice (MIN) 315 published December 2007describes MCA research project 555 which is a study into the safety of davit-mounted, side launched ships’ lifeboats and their launching systems. The primary objective of the study was to make proposals for measures to improve the hardware performance of lifeboats and contribute to the prevention of accidents.
The project found that:
Notwithstanding the contributory factors noted in the IMO Circulars, this study has found that many existing on-load release hooks, whilst satisfying the current regulations, may be inherently unsafe and therefore not fit for purpose.
This situation arises because some designs of on-load hook can be described as unstable, in that they have a tendency to open under the effect of the lifeboat’s own weight and need to be held closed by the operating mechanism. As a result, there is no defence against defects or faults in the operating mechanism, or errors by the crew, or incorrect resetting of the hook after being released.
The research project concluded that this was the principal reason for almost all of the more serious accidents that have occurred. Furthermore, it considered that the solution lies not in training or maintenance, but in radical re-design of the hook types involved. Improved maintenance, whilst desirable, is unlikely to be a sufficiently effective risk reduction measure because of the harsh operating environment and dwindling levels of skilled resource on board a ship.
Improved training is similarly unlikely to be a sufficiently effective measure. This is because human error is inevitable, particularly under the difficult working conditions (time pressures, language barriers, fatigue, cold, dark, wet, etc) which typically prevail on board. Given the reality of this context, it is entirely inappropriate for a safety critical system (i.e. an unstable design of on-load hook) to be catastrophically susceptible to single human error.
Unstable designs of on-load release hook are to be identified with the intention that they be withdrawn from service on all ships and replaced with stable designs. The necessary development of new hooks should be undertaken urgently and the transition made at the earliest possible time.
In view of the serious nature of the hazard, only as an interim risk reduction measure to avoid further unnecessary fatalities during mandatory lifeboat tests and trials, a system should be introduced whereby maintenance shackles are rigged to by-pass the on-load release hook during lowering and recovery, but are disconnected at all other times.
Noting the difficulties with on-load release for twin fall launching systems, consideration should be given to adoption of single fall capsules for ships carrying small numbers of persons.
Source: UK P&I Club,