Thursday, July 16, 2009

Recovering Enclosed Lifeboats

Most of the complaint about modern ship's lifeboats focuses upon the dangerous on-load release gear. This is the problem that has killed the most mariners. The real problem is that the sole purpose of these boat is to meet SOLAS requirements. It is not safe to use them to train the crew.

I was once part of a crew that routinely launched and recovered boats in rough seas.

Recovering this style boat -

Open Lifeboat USCG Photo found at An Unofficial Coast Guard Blog

The Coast Guard Motor Whale boat crew consist of a coxswain, forward hook up and aft hook-up (usually the boat engineer)

With this ship.

USCGC Gallatin
This set up makes use of frapping lines rigged from the main deck just below the boat to dampen the motion of the boat when the ship rolls.

Is not the same thing as recovering this lifeboat

Fully enclosed Lifeboat

The forward hook-up crew member has to stick his head out the opening in the bow while the mate is attempting to maneuver while looking out the window in the aft steering station.

With this ship.

PCC in New York Harbor photo from Towmasters

Here it is about 90 feet from the head of the davits to the sea.

With a little luck a trained and experienced crew can do it safely when it's flat calm - but the there is no requirement that mariners being issued lifeboatmen certificaton be trained on this type of boat.

One trick during recovery that might avoid the problem of improperly locked release gear is once the boat is hooked up don't bring it back aboard as was done here (gcaptain vid). Instead once the boat has been hoisted a meter or so above the sea, stop and have the crew check that the release is locked properly. The boat crew will have to be shown this beforehand. This check can not easily be done while the boat is pitching in a sea and the gear is crashing into the top of the boat with each passing wave.

This doesn't solve the problem of getting the boat hooked up in the first place with out smashing fingers, or heads. It is difficult for the boat crew inside to communicate with each other and the ship must use hand held radios, it's too far to communicate by voice.

From comments Babu links to this video from an outfit called Nadiro of an much improved system It uses what they call a drop in ball system. Notice the the opening for the forward hook-up crew is in the top of the boat not the front.

My guess is the price they want for that system means most mariners will never see one.


1 comment:

ttrexxx said...

You should check out my fathers life boat system under Stafford TrexlerBalto. In google