Tuesday, June 14, 2011


There are different types of lifeboats used on board a ship on the basis of the type of ship and other special requirements. Not all the lifeboats have the same type of releasing mechanisms, for the launching of a lifeboat depends on several other factors. In this article we will take a look at the main types of lifeboat releasing mechanisms and also learn about the SOLAS requirements for lifeboats.

Types of lifeboat releases: On load and off load release.
There are two types of lifeboat releasing mechanisms- on load and off load. These mechanisms release the boat from the davit, which is attached to a wire or fall by means of a hook. By releasing the hook the lifeboat can be set free to propel away from the ship.

Off load mechanism:

The off load mechanism releases the boat after the load of the boat is transferred to water or the boat has been lowered fully into the sea. When the boat touches the surface of water, the load on the fall and hence the hook releases and due to its mechanism the hook detaches from the fall. If the detachment dose not takes place, any of the crew members can remove the hook from the fall. Most of the times the offload mechanism is manually disengaged in case of malfunction; however, in case of fire, it is dangerous to go out and release the hook.

On load mechanism:
On load mechanism can release the lifeboat from the wire, with the ship above the water level and with all the crew members inside the boat. The load will be still on the fall as the boat would not have touched the water. Normally the height of about 1 m is kept for the on load release, so that the fall is smooth without damaging the boat and harming the crew inside. A lever is provided inside the boat to operate this mechanism. As the lever is operated from inside, it is safe to free the boat without going of the out lifeboat, when there is a fire on ship.


Free Fall life boat release:

In Free fall life boat, the launching mechanism is similar to on load release. the only difference is that the free fall lifeboat is not lowered till 1m above water level, it is launched from the stowed position by operating a lever located inside the boat which releases the boat from rest of the davit and boat slides through the tilted ramp into the water.

SOLAS and LSA code Requirements for lifeboat:
-The size, number and the capacity of the lifeboat for a merchant vessel is decided by the type of the ship and number of ship’s crew, but it should not be less then 7.3 m in length and minimum two lifeboats are provided on both side of the ship (port and starboard).
-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.
-The lifeboat must carry all the equipments described under SOLAS which can be used in survival at sea. It includes rations, fresh water, first aid, compass, distress signalling equipments like rocket etc.
-The ship must carry one rescue boat for rescue purpose along with other lifeboats. One lifeboat can be designated as a rescue boat if more then one lifeboat is present onboard ship.
-The gravity davits must be hold and slide down the lifeboat even when the ship is heeled to an angle of 15 degree on either side. Ropes are used to hold the lifeboat in stowed position with cradle. These       ropes are called gripes.
-The wires which lift or lower the lifeboat are known as falls and the speed of the lifeboat descent should not be more then 36m/ min which is controlled by means of centrifugal brakes.
-The hoisting time for the boat launching appliance should not be less then 0.3 m/sec with the boat loaded to its full capacity.
-The Lifeboat must be painted in international bright orange color with the ship’s call sign printed on it.
-The lifeboat station must be easily accessible for all the crew members in all circumstances. Safety awareness posters and launching procedures must be posted at lifeboat station.
-Regular drills must be carried out to ensure that the ship’s crew members are capable of launching the boat with minimal time during real emergency.