22.11.2020

Lifeboat Drills — Preparing for Safety

Lifeboat Drills - Preparing for Safety

In this short article we will have some talk about the lifeboat drills that are supposed to be carried out on board ships on the regular basis in order to make sure that the ship crew members are duly aware of the lifeboat arrangement of their vessel and are able to launch the lifeboats in a safe way.

Lifeboats save lives and that is a known fact. The lifeboat will get you to safety except that occasionally, through poor design and maintenance, lack of training, lack of familiarity with their equipment, communication failure or simply operator’s error, lifeboat drills have actually taken lives or caused serious injury. That is why it is critically important that the drills are carried out with all participants focused on the safety.

So, what are the most important things you need to know here?

Firstly, you should know that whatever job you have on board a ship, anything that threatens the safety of your vessel, could put you in the position of having to know how to operate a lifeboat. As a professional mariner, you know that any lifting operation has its hazards, especially if you are launching or recovering a heavy lifeboat.

Look at this video showing what had actually happened during one of the lifeboat drills – there is no scenario, the case is real.

The on-load release mechanism failed because the cables controlling the hook release were not adjusted properly so the lifeboat was free to fall into the sea. The crew did everything correctly. The lifeboat was actually being recovered and luckily there was no one on board the lifeboat. If there had been, there is a high chance they would have been badly injured.

It is been claimed that as many as sixteen percent of the seamen who have been killed on merchant ships, died during lifeboat drills, and eighty percent of the fatalities are claimed to have been due to the hook release mechanism.

Let us look at the example how you would launch and operate a lifeboat. It may not the same as that on your ship but you can find details of lifesaving equipment and procedures for holding safe drills in your company ship’s safety management system.

One should never enter the lifeboat without checking that release hooks are fully closed and that the fall prevention devices are in place if they are used. However, there is one particular control that you must be very clear about – the release handle. Check that the release handle is in the closed and locked position and that the safety pin is installed in place.

It is this release handle that was operated in error in our real life example above, resulting in the lifeboat falling down to the sea. It should be understood that it is not always easy to know from the inside of the lifeboat how far it has been lowered or how high it is above water. For that reason, the system has been devised and used in some lifeboats that should ensure the lifeboat is in the water by using a hydrostatic sensing system.

So, we can say that deploying lifeboats in drills should always been undertaken in a professional and seamanlike way ensuring that full attention is paid to the significant risks that are inherent in getting you away from your ship if the worst happened. Please ensure that all crew members participating in the lifeboat drills in any role have thorough understanding of the safety aspects. This understanding may eventually contribute into the provision of the safety of human life at sea. We all know that the regular and properly conducted shipboard drills are the pre-requisite for provision of the safety.

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