Introduction to Lifeboat Arrangements (cont.)

Let us continue to talk about shipboard lifeboat arrangements. Most passenger ships carry partially enclosed lifeboats and the types of release gear are similar to those used for totally enclosed boats. The winch operator lowers the lifeboat to embarkation deck where it must be securely bowsed. The methods used for that can vary very widely so you should consult SOLAS training manual for detailed instructions. Before anybody enters the lifeboat on an exercise drill, you must confirm that the fall preventing devices are in place and have been checked for security.

Only then can the person in charge enter the boat, turn on the main battery and manually disconnect the external power supply. At this point the lifeboat will be swung into the embarkation position and boarding can begin. The passengers will board the lifeboat through the ports and directed to their seats to ensure an even distribution of weight. The first to board will be placed furthest from the entrance. It is the person in charge's role to take command of the evacuees as good leadership is an important factor in survival situations.

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Introduction to Lifeboat Arrangements

It is rare for ships to find themselves in serious trouble and even rarer for the crew to abandon ship. In fact, the first principle of safety at sea remains as true today as ever - the ship is your best lifeboat and should not be abandoned until there is no alternative.

We need to be familiar with different types of lifeboats and how to use them. Detailed information about the lifesaving equipment and appliances carried on board the ship can be found in the SOLAS training manual which, in turn, would normally be found on the navigation bridge, in the engine control room, and in accommodation areas such as mess room and recreation room. The information in the manual is provided in the working language of the vessel and is vessel-specific.

Take time to familiarize yourself thoroughly with the ship's survival systems. If you wait until there is an emergency, it could be too late. The ship's muster list states which lifeboat you shall use. It also identifies the signal that initiates the abandon ship procedure and specifies individual's duties and responsibilities in an emergency - these should be familiar from regular drills. Once the crew is mustered and headcount has been taken, the bridge must be informed. Never board the lifeboat until the person in charge gives the order.

 When boarded, designated members of the lifeboat crew will bring the vital safety equipment collected during the mustering procedure, such as the satellite EPIRB, the radar transponder, or extra water supplies - in fact anything that would make survival and rescue a little bit easier. If this is your role, make sure you know where to find these items. Lifeboats should only be launched when the order is given by the Master. If you work on a ferry or cruise ship, you may have to help passengers board the lifeboats. Many of them may feel nervous, coping with the emergency situation in an unfamiliar environment. If you are confident with the lifeboat launching procedure, you will help to calm their nerves and ensure a swift and safe evacuation of the ship. Let us look first at the davit launched lifeboats.

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Holding Effective Drills

An accident can happen at any time while you are serving on any ship. If an unexpected event does happen, crew members shall always be ready and know what is expected of them. Drills are a mandatory part of shipboard life; they shall help build teamwork and confidence. But eyewitness reports from port state authorities have discovered that too often crew members are unfamiliar, hesitant, unconcerned or use poor techniques when forced into this kind of situation.

That is why holding effective drills is so important. If drills are carried out realistically, the knowledge obtained will enable crew members to handle real situations promptly and ensure a positive outcome. Crew members should remember that holding effective drills is not just a task undertaken to conform to regulations - effective drills are designed to save lives. Of course, simulating real situations to obtain knowledge is difficult and can be dangerous.

But these trainees are obtaining first-hand knowledge before setting out to sea. A drill is a way of testing your knowledge. A review of that test will indicate any areas for further training. With the number of new stories of accidents involving vessels, it has become evident that drills have not always been effective; crews were not responding quickly enough, they used poor techniques and they lacked the knowledge and understanding of their role in the real life incident.

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