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SOLAS-74 Lifesaving Appliances

Safety of Life At Sea Convention, Lifesaving Appliances

Lifeboats, Liferafts, Lifejackets and Other Lifesaving Appliances (SOLAS 74)

The regulations are contained in Chapter III of SOLAS 74 and provide for abandonment of a stricken ship whilst avoiding the danger of hypothermia in so doing (the so called "dry-shod" principle), thus taking into account the regulatory strategy at Section 3(16). The "dry-shod" requirements were introduced in the 1983 amendments to SOLAS 74.

Lifeboats on cargo ships are required to be totally enclosed, self-righting and either fire retardant or non-combustible. However when the ship is operating in favorable climatic conditions and in suitable areas, partially enclosed, self-righting lifeboats are permissible. On chemical tankers and liquefied gas carriers carrying cargoes emitting toxic vapors, the lifeboats must be totally enclosed, self-righting, fire retardant or non-combustible, and fitted with a self contained air support system. On oil tankers, chemical tankers and liquefied gas carriers carrying low flash point cargoes, the lifeboats must be totally enclosed, self-righting, fire retardant or non-combustible, fitted with a self contained air support system and a fire protection system (external water spray).

All cargo ships are required to carry a rescue boat, the primary purpose of which is for "manoverboard" rescues. Means are therefore to be provided for recovering rapidly a rescue boat from the sea. Such rapid recovery is not required for lifeboats, the purpose of which is to take people off the ship and not onto it. A rescue boat is also used to marshal survival craft (i.e. lifeboats and liferafts).

Liferafts are required as a back-up to lifeboats on smaller ships and, in some smaller ships are allowed in lieu of lifeboats.

Lifeboat davits are to be capable of turning out against an adverse heel of 20° and a trim of 10°, with the boat having been fully boarded in the stowed position; or, in the case of oil tankers, chemical tankers and liquefied gas carriers, an adverse list greater than 20°, if found necessary on completion of deterministic damage stability calculations carried out in accordance with MARPOL 73/78 Annex 1, the International Bulk Chemical Code or the International Gas Code. The launching mechanism is to be such that it may be controlled by one person from a position on the ship’s deck, and from a position within the boat.

Davits of this type are not required for a totally enclosed free-fall lifeboat, which is simply restrained in the stowed position at the top of a ramp situated at the aft end. When released, the boat slides down the ramp, the angle of which is normally 30°, and continues in free fall over the aft end, into the sea. The free-fall launch rapidly clears the ship and is almost unaffected by heel and trim whereas a conventional launch, using conventional davits and falls, poses problems when the ship is listing, heaving and rolling. Free-fall may be uncomfortable, but it is the surest and quickest way to leave a stricken ship.

The regulations do not demand the provision of free-fall lifeboats, but allow for choice between free-fall and conventionally launched boats.

Lifebuoys are required, primarily to assist in "man-overboard" situations.

Lifejackets are to be provided for every person on board, and retro-reflective tape is required on all lifeboats, liferafts, lifebuoys and lifejackets.

Immersion suits and thermal protective aids are required, the actual number to be provided being dependent on several variables. An immersion suit is intended to enable the wearer to survive when immersed in a cold sea, e.g when rescuing some one from the sea. A thermal protective aid is a lightweight waterproof garment intended to conserve body heat and be worn by persons suffering from exposure to cold temperatures, e.g. a person recovered from the sea.

Training and maintenance is of vital importance. The regulations require abandon ship training and drills, including practice musters and fire drills. Operational readiness, maintenance and inspections, including weekly and monthly inspections of life-saving appliances, servicing of inflatable liferafts, lifejackets, rescue boats and hydrostatic release units, are also stipulated.

Although the foregoing summarizes the regulations for cargo ships only, those for passenger ships follow the same philosophy, but take into account that passengers are not trained seamen, and will include elderly people and children. Also because of the generally larger capacity and size of lifeboats on passenger ships as compared to those on cargo ships, partially enclosed lifeboats are permitted. Another reason for this is that for many passengers, embarkation into a partially enclosed lifeboat is also faster and easier than into a totally enclosed lifeboat. Free-fall lifeboats are not permitted on passenger ships.

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