Lifeboat (Freefall & Fully Closed): An Ultimate Guide – Marine Engineering

Lifeboat (Freefall & Fully Closed): An Ultimate Guide – Marine Engineering

‘Life Boat’ is an important Life-Saving Appliance Onboard Ship. As its name sounds it’s an ultimate hope or option for the people on board to save their life in case of emergencies. So, it’s very important to know everything about the Lifeboat as a Mariner.

In this article, I’ll share with you all the important things you should know about lifeboats. Such as Basic Classification, Lifeboat Equipment, Launching Procedures, and Solas Regulations.

Life Boat is used only in extreme emergency situations when the mother vessel is no safer to stay. But, the experienced industry experts say, “Mother Vessel is the safest place”. Since it is not easy to launch the Lifeboat during an emergency due to various reasons such as weather conditions. This is the reason Life Boat is a very important topic to learn.

You may also like: 10 SOLAS Regulations Every mariner should know

One common mistake/negligence by most of the junior mariners is, during the drills, they’ll only remember the duties assigned to them. But, imagine a situation where your senior officers are not in a condition to perform their duties and you’ve to lead the team. Or, you are alone to perform all the duties. So, it is very important to know everything about lifeboats.

I remember my first work assigned by my senior officers was to take round onboard ship and getting familiar with the Location of all Life Saving Appliances. Because life-saving appliances are the major concern for companies, IMO, Port State, Flag State, and everyone else in the industry.

So, know your ship’s Life-Saving appliance first before knowing the rest.

Let’s get started…

Types of Life Boat

Types of Lifeboat

There are three types of lifeboats commonly found.

  1. Open type lifeboat
  2. Semiclosed / Partially Closed type lifeboat
  3. Closed type lifeboat

Based on the type of launching mechanism, lifeboats can be divided into two types.

  1. Davit Launched
  2. Freefall lifeboat

Due to limitations, Open Type lifeboats are not in use nowadays. Semi-Closed type lifeboats can be found on a few of Crew ships. Fully Closed type lifeboats are majorly used on all types of cargo vessels. The Freefall lifeboats are commonly used on Bulk carriers. The reason is, freefall lifeboats can be launched very quickly. Since bulk carriers sink faster compared to any other type of vessel. You have very limited time to escape in the case of Bulk Carriers.

SOLAS Regulations of Lifeboat

  1. All lifeboat shall be of sufficient strength to :
    • Enable them to safely launch when fully loaded with their full complement of person and
    • Be capable of being launched and towed when a ship is making headway at a speed of 5 knots in calm water
  2. Except for free fall, each other lifeboat to be launched by falls shall be of sufficient strength to
    withstand when loaded with its full complement of person and equipment and with applicable skates or fenders in position, a lateral impact against ship side at an impact velocity of at least 3.5m/sec and also a drop into the water from a height of at least 3mt
  3.  A lifeboat shall not carry more than 150 persons.
  4. The size, number, and capacity of the lifeboat for a merchant’s vessel are decided by the type of the ship and the number of the ship’s crew. But it should not be less than 7.3 meters in length and a minimum of two lifeboats are provided on both sides of the ship (port and starboard).
  5. The requirement for lifeboat of a cargo ship with 20,000 GT is that the boat must be capable of
    launching when the ship is heading with a speed of 5 knots.
  6. The ship must carry one rescue boat for rescue purposes along with other lifeboats. One lifeboat can be designated as a rescue boat if more than one lifeboat is available.
  7. The gravity davits must behold and slide down the lifeboat even when the ship is heeled to an
    angle of 15 degrees on either side.
  8. The wires which lift or lower the lifeboat are known as falls and the speed of the lifeboat descent
    should not be more than 36m/ min which is controlled by means of centrifugal brakes.
  9. The hoisting time for the boat launching appliance should not be less than 0.3 m/sec with the boat
    loaded to its full capacity.
  10. The lifeboat must be painted with international bright orange color.
  11. Each lifeboat shall be fitted with a certificate of approval, endorsed by the administration containing at least the following items:
    • Manufacturer’s name and address
    • Lifeboat Model & serial number.
    • Month and year of manufacture
    • No. of persons approved to carry

SOLAS Regulations for Lifeboat Engine

  1. It should get started at 15° within 2 minutes.
  2. Fuel flash point should not be less than 43°C.
  3. Fuel capacity should be for 24Hrs.
  4. Speed should be 6 Knots.
    During towing 2 Knots.
  5. It should operate even if the boat flooded up to the centerline of the crankshaft.

Life Boat Equipment

List of Equipment available on Lifeboat. These items shall be checked by the designated officers on a regular basis

Lifeboat Equipment

  • First Aid kit.
  • 4 Rocket Parachutes
  • 2 Smoke Signals
  • 6 Hand Flares
  • Torch lights
  • Daylight signals – Heliograph
  • Sea anchor Paddles
  • Anti-sea-sickness tablets (6 dozens)
  • Anti-sea-sickness bags (50)
  • Food (500gm/person/3days) – 15000 kJ
  • Water (1000ml/person/3days) – 3ltr
  • 2 Buoyant Knife
  • 1 Buoyant whistle
  • Sponges
  • Copy of Life Saving Signals
  • Survival Instructions
  • 2 Thermal Protective Aid
  • Repair kit
  • Hand pump
  • 2 Boat hooks
  • Compass
  • 2 Painter lines
  • 2 Hatches
  • 3 Tin openers
  • Buoyant Oars
  • Additional Equipment to be carried by crewmembers as mentioned in the muster list prior to embarkation:
    •  SART
    • GMDSS Portable Radios
    • Additional fuel, water, provisions & warm clothing.
    • MOB Marker if not fitted in LifeBoat.

Launching of Lifeboat

The procedure for the Launching of the lifeboat will be posted near the muster station. Please read carefully if you’re not competent to launch the lifeboat. And practice lifeboat launching drills regularly to be familiar with the launching procedure. But, the common way to launch the lifeboat is as follows,

Lifeboat Launching procedure

  1. One person goes inside the Life Boat and passes the end of the toggle painter and plugs the drain.
  2. Check all lifelines and falls are clear of Life Boat.
  3. Make fast the other end of toggle painter on a strong point forward of the ship.
  4. Remove forward and aft gripes and both people stand by for passing bowing tackle and tricing
  5. Remove the harbor safety pin.
  6. Make sure the shipside is clear of any obstacles.
  7. Now the brake can be released from inside the lifeboat or outside. From outside one person lifts the Deadman’s Handle slowly which releases the brake. From inside, a rope arrangement is given which connects to the Brake lever.
  8. The boat along with cradle sides downward till it comes to the embarkation deck.
  9.  By pulling tricing pendant, bring it alongside the embarkation deck.
  10. Persons embark inside the boat.
  11. Now, tricing pendant is removed and the whole load comes on falls.
  12. Now the brake is further released to lower the Lifeboat.

Lifeboat releasing methods

There are two types of releasing methods

  1. On-load release method:  In the On-Load release method, lifeboat falls are released around 1m before the lifeboat touches the water. This method is used whenever the weather conditions are not favorable to perform off-load method. The release action is performed with the trough of the wave. But, this is a not recommended method of lifeboat releasing.
  2. Off-load release method: In Off-Load release method, the lifeboat falls are released after the lifeboat is waterborne. The release action is performed either automatically using an HRU(Hydrostatic Release Unit), or manually if the automatic system fails. This is a safer method of releasing lifeboats.

Maintainance of Lifeboat

  1. Weekly trial of Engines in idle mode.
  2. Fuel oil, lube oil, gear oil, etc – level checks.
  3. Engagement of reversing gear – Operational check.
  4. Steering mechanism – Operational check.
  5. Battery checks by Electrical Officer (Battery to be changed once every 2 years).
  6. Mechanical linkages on launching gear – inspection, de-rusting, and lubrication.
  7. Electrical equipment associated with launching gear –  inspected and tried out.
  8. Inspection of winch drums brake linings as per PMS (Annually)
  9. Cleaning and operational check of limit switches on Davits
  10. Operational check of Launching System generally on a weekly basis
  11.  Maneuvering Life Boat in Water once in three months (as stated in SOLAS)
  12. The annual servicing of the Lifeboat and associated equipment by an authorized agency
  13. Five-yearly tests (Static & Dynamic load test + Winch drum brake strength test) are done by trained personnel from an approved agency and Certificate obtained for same.

Checks to be done as an Engineer before Lifeboat launching

  • Before lowering the lifeboat check battery is properly charged or not.
  • The rudder is turning on both port and STBD sides.
  • Check fuel tank, fuel pipe, lube oil level.
  • Check air bottle pressure.
  • Ensure engine running in both directions means fwd and astern.
  • Electrical connection checks.
  • Condition of the bilge pump and plug.
  • Check all tools are in the toolbox.
  • Check shaft sealing.

Reasons for Lifeboat Engine is not Starting:

  • Empty fuel tank.
  • Incorrectly attached fuel supply hose.
  • Damaged fuel supply hose.
  • Defective fuel pump.
  • Contaminated fuel.
  • Improper starting procedures.
  • Faulty, spoiled, or incorrect positioning of the spark plug.
  • Improper maintenance.
  • Emergency shut off de-activated.
  • Undercharged starter battery.
  • Loose electrical connections.
  • Bad ignition coil.
  • Defective starter motor

How to Stow the Lifeboat?

  1. They must be stowed in such a way so that they are capable of being launched in 10min
  2. It is capable of being put in the water safely and rapidly even under unfavorable conditions of list and trim as given in SOLAS.
  3. Each lifeboat must be attached to a separate set of davits.
  4. They must not be stowed in the bow of the vessel OR so far aft as to be endangered by the propellers or the stern.
  5. They must be stowed so that it is not necessary to lift them in order to swing out the davits.
  6. Means must be provided for bringing the lifeboats against the ship’s side and holding them there so that persons may safely embark.
  7. They must be fitted with skates or other suitable means to facilitate launching on the lower side against an adverse list greater than 20 degrees and trim of 10 degrees.

Freefall Life Boat

Free-fall lifeboats shall comply with the requirements of totally enclosed lifeboats described above.

Freefall Lifeboat

  • The carrying capacity of a free-fall lifeboat is the number of persons that can be provided with a seat without interfering with the means of propulsion or the operation of any of the lifeboat’s equipment.
  • The width of the seat shall be at least 430 mm. Free clearance in front of the backrest shall be at least 635 mm. The backrest shall extend at least 1,000 mm above the seat pan.
  • Each free-fall lifeboat shall make positive headway immediately after water entry and shall not come into contact with the ship after a free-fall launching against a trim of up to 10° and a list of up to 20° either way from the certification height when fully equipped and loaded.
  • Each free-fall lifeboat shall be of sufficient strength to withstand, when loaded with its full complement of persons and equipment, a free-fall launch from a height of at least 1.3 times the freefall certification height.
  • Each free-fall lifeboat shall be fitted with a release system which shall:
    • have two independent activation systems for the release mechanisms which may only be operated from inside the lifeboat and be marked in a color that contrasts with its surroundings.
    • be so arranged as to release the boat under any condition of loading from no load up to at least 200% of the normal load caused by the fully equipped lifeboat when loaded with the number of persons for which it is to be approved.
    • be adequately protected against accidental or premature use.
    • be designed to test the release system without launching the lifeboat.
    • be designed with a factor of safety of 6 based on the ultimate strength of the materials used.

This was a brief guide on Lifeboat types, Launching Procedure, Maintenance, and SOLAS Regulations. For more details on Lifeboats please refer to the operating manual available onboard. Also, read IMO Publications to know more details.

Have any questions? Drop them in the comments.

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