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PostHeaderIcon ... Australian Labor Union's stance on lifeboat drills


It has long been my own position, that lifeboat drills should not require any personnel in the lifeboat during lowering or hoisting operations. While we can all agree that lifeboats / launching davits have evolved into a better & safer design, the danger of failing remained almost intact and such operations should always be deemed as one of the most dangerous tasks a seaman must undertake during his tour of duty. Still, it is a common occurrence these days, that some ship operators and/or masters require such personnel to be placed inside the lifeboat prior to lowering into the water.

Here is a photo of a lifeboat that came down crushing, killing 2 and seriously injuring 3 others.

  • demaged_lifeboat

AIMPE (Australian Institute of Marine & Power Engineers, a labor union) has taken a strong stance on the subject. Download the full version of AIMPE letter.

Click to enlarge

  • AU_lifeboat_drill_concerns

Above is a short excerpt from the mentioned AIMPE's letter.

The points of all this are simple enough:

  • lifeboat drills are dangerous in nature and must be globally recognized as such, no exceptions
  • it is hard to argue with the need to train personnel and even harder with how to do it successfully, if no actual participation is to take place (such as no entering of a lifeboat for lowering ops), yet the whole evolution of a lifeboat launching exercise, must be reviewed and all points, weighted against the risk involved, just as easily one can argue, that personnel can be trained well in lifeboat launching procedures without sitting inside it while hanging off the falls alone
  • despite welcome developments in lifesaving equipment design, we still see it fail at the least opportune moments, it's easy to place the blame on the errors in training and / or maintenance, but the fact is, that there is no global standardization of release mechanisms or davit design (among others), which only exacerbates the problem, it appears, that type approval system does not work as intended and, arguably, lobbying of industry's "leaders" takes precedence over seamen's safety

Download also this article, from the same AIMPE web site. Below is an interesting snap from it

  • lifeboat_design_problems

Note the part with "shortfalls in manufacturers' cooperation".

In another article, I showed a davit that failed, partly due to inadequate operational instructions, partly due to personnel inexperience, and partly due to improper design.

In recent 2 decades or so, the maritime industry has become one the most regulated of all. I'm sure data exists to support regulatory success in minimising accidents and casualties. Yet, we have failed to address some of the critical safety problems. Lifeboat drills are just one of them. Another is a lack of standards on firefighting procedures on board a ship. Will deal with that in another article.

If the above sounds like a load of hypocritical statements, here is an advisory released by the Norwegian Maritime Directorate on the very same subject:

Lifeboats shall be lowered to the water surface and back up again without people on board. Drills with people on board shall be limited to when the lifeboat is on the water. Reference is made to Safety Notice No. 2/2003 issued by the Norwegian Maritime Directorate and to SOLAS Ch. III/

You can see this entire NMD safety notice at this link.

Lastly, here is a snap from IMO circular 1206, issued in 2006, on Measures to Prevent Accidents with Lifeboats.

  • IMO_on_lifeboat_drills

As expected, IMO decided to stop just short of what other authorities have been quite clear about, but at least they DO acknowledge the hazard involving crew members inside a lifeboat.

Liberia has issued this circular on lifeboat drills (in response to IMO's modified set of regulations related to drills in general). 


Last Updated (Friday, 09 October 2009 21:36)

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