Accidents involving survival and rescue craft are a continuing source of concern within the maritime industry. Various regulatory amendments have been made in recent years, many of which have addressed on-load release mechanisms in an attempt to prevent further occurrences.
In the last 10 years there have been at least 60 fatalities and 145 serious injuries around the world from testing of lifeboats. Lifeboat accidents occur most often during training and drills and involve not just the hooks, but also the entire lifeboat release and retrieval system (LRRS), including the wires, the gripes and pennants. In many cases, the cause is unsound procedures.
Identified causes of lifeboat accidents include:
Unfamiliarity with equipment
Inadequate risk assessment and planning
Systems that are not yet modified in accordance with SOLAS Regulation III/1.5
Systems with design issues
Incorrectly or poorly maintained systems
Complacency and failure to follow safety procedures
It is essential that the safety lessons learned from accidents involving lifeboat systems are passed on both to those serving at sea and to management ashore. An awareness of the current regulatory requirements and the available guidance concerning the use of lifeboats is important, as it ensures that appropriate onboard procedures and training are applied and carried out.
The Club's Loss Prevention team have therefore been working in conjunction with Witherby Publishing to produce the book “Survival craft release and retrieval systems." The team hope the publication of this book will help to reduce the numbers of accidents involving survival and rescue crafts in future.The book is intended as a teaching aid for crew and contains 20 incident case studies and detailed explanations of the regulations regarding survival craft release and retrieval systems. It also contains up to date guidance on a variety of issues relevant to lifeboat safety, including crew welfare measures that should be taken, explanations of how to operate and launch lifeboats, and instructions around best practice in maintenance and repair of lifeboats and related appliances.