It was the sinking of the Titanic early last century that brought the world's attention to the importance of lifeboats and lifeboat exercises. Since then, these exercises have become an essential part of maritime life. First, with open lifeboats.
These were fitted with systems that only released when the boat was in the water with no load on the falls; these systems worked well in calm conditions but if there was movement of the sea or the ship, there could be problems release the lifeboat.
To overcome this, on-load release systems were developed. On-load release systems are sophisticated. Their design incorporates many safety features. But, to function safely, they need to be operated and maintained correctly. It is essential to have a full working knowledge of your on-load release systems to operate them and maintain them.
All on-load release systems include a fore and an aft hook assembly by which the lifeboat is suspended. The hook assemblies are linked by cables to the release handle mechanism operated inside the lifeboat. The mechanical arrangements of this handle mechanism are designed to ensure that both hooks are released at the same time.
Most systems feature a hydrostatic release linked to the handle to make certain that it cannot be operated out of the water unless this release is deliberately overridden. We are going to look at the maintenance of on-load release mechanisms...