IMO Guidelines on Safety During Abandon Ship Drills using lifeboats

14 September 2017 |  C17036

IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), at its 98th session approved revised guidelines on safety issues during abandon ship drills using lifeboats.

Ship Owners/ Managers/ Operators | Flag Administrations | Surveyors

As per the SOLAS Convention, safe use of the ship’s equipment is required and frequent drills and trainings help the crew into familiarization, as appropriate. By conducting frequent drills, the crew is more confident that the vessel’s life-saving appliances will work in case of an emergency.

Prior conducting any drill is required that the lifeboat and its equipment have been maintained in accordance with the ship’s maintenance manuals and any associated technical documentation, as well as noting all the precautionary measures necessary. Abnormal conditions of wear and tear or corrosion should be reported to the responsible officer immediately.

Drills should be conducted with an emphasis on learning and be viewed as a learning experience, not just as a task to meet a regulatory requirement to conduct drills. Whether they are emergency drills required by SOLAS or additional special drills conducted to enhance the competence of the crew members, they should be carried out at safe speed. During drills, care should be taken to ensure that persons on board familiarize themselves with their duties and with the equipment. If necessary, pauses should be made during the drills to explain especially difficult elements. The experience of the crew is an important factor in determining how fast a drill or certain drill elements should be carried out.

SOLAS requires that drills shall, as far as practicable, be conducted as if there was an actual emergency. This means that the entire drill should, as far as possible, be carried out, while ensuring that the drill can be performed in such a way that it is safe in every respect. Consequently, elements of the drill that may involve unnecessary risks need special attention or may be excluded from the drill.

In preparing for a drill, those responsible should review the manufacturer’s instruction manual to ensure that a planned drill is conducted properly. Those responsible for the drill should ensure that the crew is familiar with the guidance provided in the life-saving appliances instruction manuals.

Lessons learned in the course of a drill should be documented and made a part of the follow-up shipboard training discussions and the planning of the next drill session.

Lifeboats lowered by means of falls

During drills, everyone participating should be alert for potentially dangerous conditions or situations and should bring them to the attention of the responsible person for appropriate action. Feedback and recommendations to the shipowner, the Flag Administration and the system manufacturer are important elements of the marine safety system.

When drills are to be performed with persons on board the lifeboat, it is recommended that the boat be lowered and recovered without any persons on board first to ascertain that the arrangement functions correctly. In this case, the boat should then be lowered into the water with only the number of persons on board necessary to operate the boat.

To prevent lashings or gripes from getting entangled, proper release should be checked before swinging out the davit.

Free-fall lifeboats

The monthly drills with free-fall lifeboats should be carried out according to the manufacturer’s instructions, so that the persons who are to enter the boat in an emergency are trained to embark the boat, take their seats in a correct way and use the safety belts; as well as being instructed on how to act during launching into the sea.

When the lifeboat is free-fall launched as part of a drill, this should be carried out with the minimum personnel required to manoeuvre the boat in the water and to recover it. The recovery operation should be carried out with special attention, bearing in mind the high-risk level of this operation. Where permitted by SOLAS, simulated launching should be carried out in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, taking due note of the Guidelines for simulated launching of free-fall lifeboats.

Guidelines for simulated launching of free-fall lifeboats during drills

Below guidelines are general; the lifeboat manufacturer’s instruction manual should always be consulted before conducting simulated launching. Simulated launching should only be carried out with lifeboats and launching appliances designed to accommodate it, and for which the manufacturer has provided instructions.

All persons involved should be familiar with the manufacturers’ instructions and the activation of the release mechanism. Manuals, posters and signs may be used to assist familiarization and the conduct of drills. Simulated launching should be carried out under the supervision of a responsible person who should be an officer experienced in such procedures and be conducted without the physical activation of the free-fall release system. Testing of release systems should be separate to and not carried out during simulated launching drills.

Conduct of drills – typical simulated launching sequence (SOLAS regulation III/19)
1 Check equipment and documentation to ensure that all components of the lifeboat and launching appliance are in good operational condition.
2 Ensure that all personnel involved in the drill are familiar with the operating manuals, posters and signs.
3 Ensure that the restraining device(s) provided by the manufacturer for simulated launching are installed and secure and that the free-fall release mechanism is fully and correctly engaged.
4 Establish and maintain good communication between the assigned operating crew and the responsible person.
5 Disengage lashings, gripes, etc. installed to secure the lifeboat for sea or for maintenance, except those required for simulated free-fall.
6 Participating crew board the lifeboat and fasten their seatbelts under the supervision of the responsible person.
7 All crew disembark the lifeboat.
8 Return the lifeboat to the condition it was in prior to step provided in point 4 above.

Ensure that the lifeboat is returned to its normal stowed condition. Remove any restraining and/or recovery devices used only for the simulated launch procedure.

Act now

Owners/ Managers/ Operators should ensure that new safety equipment on board their vessels has been approved and installed in accordance with the provisions of SOLAS and the International Life-Saving Appliances (LSA) Code. Procedures for holding safe drills should be included in the Safety Management System (SMS). Detailed procedures for elements of drills that involve a special risk should be evident from workplace assessments adjusted to the relevant life-saving appliance and the personnel carrying out maintenance and repair work on lifeboats should be qualified accordingly.

Dromon Publication

You can download Dromon Technical Publication concerning the requirements for maintenance and inspection of firefighting, lifesaving and radio equipment as well as drills as per statutory instruments here for further information.

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