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Gard News 203, August/October 2011

A step in the right direction regarding lifeboat safety.

In May 2010 the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) adopted amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) concerning lifeboat release hooks and retrieval systems.

SOLAS amendments: stricter safety standards for lifeboats.

The MSC adopted a new paragraph 5 of SOLAS regulation III/1 requiring lifeboat on-load release mechanisms not complying with new International Life-Saving Appliances (LSA) Code requirements to be replaced no later than the first scheduled dry-docking of the ship after 1st July 2014 but, in any case, not later than 1st July 2019.  The SOLAS amendment is expected to enter into force on 1st January 2013. It establishes new, stricter, safety standards for lifeboat release and retrieval systems, in order to prevent accidents during lifeboat launching.

The amendment will require the assessment and possible replacement of a large number of lifeboat release and retrieval systems, so the MSC also adopted guidelines for evaluation and replacement of lifeboat release and retrieval systems. The guidelines provide that an evaluation of existing lifeboat release and retrieval systems conducted by the original manufacturer shall be completed no later than 1st July 2013.  Alternatively, the evaluation may be conducted by another manufacturer of lifeboat release and retrieval systems or any person who has taken responsibility over the system if the original manufacturer no longer exists or supports the equipment. If an evaluation is not carried out by the given deadline, the release and retrieval system will be considered non-compliant with the new requirements.

IMO member governments were encouraged to initiate, at the earliest opportunity, approval processes for new on-load release and retrieval systems that comply with the amendments to the LSA Code.

This is a very positive development in this area. In several previous articles Gard News has highlighted the safety issues affecting lifeboat release hooks and retrieval systems.1

Gard hopes that the problem of lifeboat fall during exercises will be greatly reduced following implementation of these provisions.

For more information readers should refer to the IMO website at www.imo.org/MediaCentre/MeetingSummaries/MSC/Pages/MSC-89th-session.aspx or to the DNV webstite at www.dnv.com/industry/maritime/publicationsanddownloads/publications/newsletters/technical_regulatory/

1 See articles "Totally enclosed lifeboats" and "Lifeboat accidents" in Gard News issue No. 146; "P&I incidents - Offshore personal injury" in Gard News issue No. 154; "Industry investigation into lifeboat safety" in Gard News issue No. 164; "A 20-year anniversary - The loss of lives in lifeboats with on-load release hooks" , "Twelve men in a boat", "The end of a musical career", and  "A fatal rescue operation" in Gard News issue No. 183; "Letter to the Editor - Lifeboat accidents" in Gard News issue No. 184; "Gard Academy conference on lifeboat hooks" in Gard News issue No. 189; and "When safety matters - The invisible human misery" in Gard News issue No. 191.

Any comments on this article can be e-mailed to the Gard News Editorial Team.