Showing posts with label lifeboats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lifeboats. Show all posts

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.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Irrelevant Training on Obsolete Open Lifeboats

The OIL COMPANIES INTERNATIONAL MARINE FORUM did a survey (PDF) back in 1994 in which it was discovered that mariners had:
a surprising lack of confidence in modern lifeboats which is causing some reluctance on the part of ship crews to conduct the necessary lifeboat drills intended to help them protect their lives

It may have been surprising in 1994, today it's not just mariners who lack confidence, the IMO, because of concerns with the number of mariners killed and injured during lifeboat drills, amended SOLAS effective July 2006 so that it is no longer required that the crew be aboard during launching.

This has observers tsk-tsking and decrying the decline of seamanship and training of today's crews. For example the the New Zealand branch of The Nautical Institute is worried that:
The crew are no longer able to practice using the tricing pendants to bring the lifeboat alongside the embarkation deck; or release the pendants to clear the ship's side before lowering into the water.
I think that amount of training crews receive in the use of tricing pedants is adequate given that tricing pendants are not used on a modern enclosed lifeboat.

The photos below, from the Northeast Maritime Institute, a facility which provides training to meet Coast Guard and SOLAS requirements for proficiency in survival craft, shows an crew being trained in an obsolete open lifeboat

The first photo shows the boat in the stowed position. The span wire is equipped with manropes, these are for the crew to hold in case the lifeboat drops, modern enclosed lifeboats do not have manropes.

Click here for a larger image of an open boat in the stowed postion

Next, here is a photo which shows an open lifeboat that has been lowered to the embarkation deck. The boat is held at three points, from left to right, first the falls, the double set of wires which can be seen running from the sheave at the ends of the davit, the falls raise and lower the boat, next the tricing pendant, just inboard of the falls, this pulls the boat alongside so the crew can board. They will be released before the boat is lowered (the boat must be raised to release weight first) and the frapping lines which run horizontally to a cleat on the davits, these help control the swing of the boat.

Click here for larger image of the tricing pendant and frapping lines

Click here for a larger image of the lifeboat crew rowing an open lifeboat

I received my lifeboat endorsement at NMI myself, I am confident that if I find myself on a sinking WWII Liberty ship my crew ( say for example we get torpedoed by a U-Boat) and I will have a good chance to successfully launching the lifeboats.

Unlike the open boat on which the crew receives training, the modern fully enclosed lifeboat there are no tricing pedants, no frapping lines, no manropes. The crew boards the lifeboat in the stowed position. The gripes and davit locking pins) are removed, then the crew simply lifts the brake and down she goes. At least in principle, in practice it is a different matter.

For example in the video below a lifeboat launch the boat starts down, stops, then resumes it descent. As can be seen this causes the lifeboat to swing energetically.

The IMO publishes an excellent guide IMO Guidelines for Developing Operation and Maintenance Manuals for Lifeboat systems (PDF) MSC 1205 26 May 2006. With regards to this problem it has this to say:

-Do not stop the swinging out operation at deck position. Stopping shakes the lifeboat and may cause casualties.
- A rapid swing out may cause dangerous impact on the boat when the davit arm reaches the deck position.
- Inching operation shakes the lifeboat and is dangerous.
On ships I sailed on lowering the boat in accordance with the instructions, neither too fast nor too slow, requires a deft touch on the brake.

In the video the person at the brake starts out at full speed, which the IMO tells us: "may cause dangerous impact." Then the operator tries to slow down which the IMO says "is dangerous" but ends up stopping instead which causes the boat to swing.

The modern enclosed lifeboat and davits is an attempt to idiot proof the launching system. these systems have problems which can be partly mitigated with training.

As for critics who claim that the mariners reluctance to trust modern lifeboats shows a lack of seamanship, I say, have the critics keelhauled.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lifeboats and Car Ships - unsafe at any height.

The lifeboats of two (sister) car ships can be seen in this photo (photo by K.C.)

gcaptain has posted a video of a lifeboat accident. It looks to me like the releasing gear may not have been fully locked. Here good article about this problem The Lifeboat Imbroglio by Captain Paul Drouin. (PDF) From that article:

The OCIMF survey also showed a general lack of confidence by seafarers in the hook/release gear.
Lack of confidence, that's one way to put it.

The article confirms what I have often suspected, since 1990 lifeboats have killed more mariners then they have saved.

This problem has been know for several years, from the article again:
Finally, what can be said about the lamentable time lag of the imbroglio? As early as 1994, the OCIMF survey into lifeboat accidents was right on the mark. Yet here we are, 14 years later and more than 20 years after serious accidents began to occur with lifeboats still grappling with the same issues.
On a car ship the problem is not launching it's recovery, try hooking up a boat with 90 feet of wire hanging from the davits. Imagine if the ship was rolling.

It seems to me the purpose of the lifeboats on a car ship is to meet SOLAS requirements, nothing more. The trick is to meet the requirements for drills without incident.