Seafarers are dying needlessly in lifeboat accidents when maritime legislation doesn’t actually require vessels to be manned during drills.
InterManager, the international trade association for ship and crew managers, is raising awareness of this fact by highlighting a legislative change which means that it is not necessary for crew to be onboard when lifeboats are tested.
SOLAS regulation III/188.8.131.52 requires each lifeboat to be launched at least once every three months during an abandon ship drill, and manoeuvred in the water by its assigned operating crew. However, the regulation, whilst requiring each lifeboat to be manoeuvred in the water by its assigned operating crew, does not actually require that crew to be on board when the lifeboat is launched.
Many of the lifeboat fatalities have occurred during launch of the lifeboats, often due to problems with the hooks.
In 2009 the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee, agreed that the assigned operating crew should not be required to be on board lifeboats during launching, unless the Master, within the authority conferred to him/her by paragraph 5.5 of the ISM Code, considers it necessary, taking into account all safety aspects.
Captain Kuba Szymanski, InterManager Secretary General, said: “This is an extremely important change which seems to have been missed by some ship operators and is still included in some Shipboard / Safety Management Systems. To prevent any further loss of life in this way we are raising awareness of the fact that seafarers are not required to be in the lifeboat when launching during drills.”
InterManager collates figures on lifeboat accidents on behalf of the maritime community and to assist in its role as a member of the International Lifeboat Group, which aims to reduce lifeboat accidents and deaths.
Since 1981 there have been 419 deaths involving lifeboats, 346 serious injuries and 116 minor injuries.
Capt Szymanski commented: “It’s important that everyone involved, particularly Port State Control officers, understand and apply this regulation correctly. The maritime community must do all we can to ensure the safety of seafarers.”