Lifeboats are life-saving equipment that are installed on big ocean going vessels for emergency evacuation of crews in case of emergencies. There are various types of lifeboats such as open type, partially enclosed and free fall types.
(Open type lifeboats have become obsolete and are found only on board older vessels)
A lifeboat is usually made of fire-retardant FRP and is equipped with on-load release gears, air-support systems and sprinkler system (for tanker’s version), diesel engine, rations, waters, signalling items, etc.; and is of self-righting capability.
Regular maintenance and inspection of lifeboat and launching appliances according to existing regulations is essential for operational readiness and to enhance safety.
According to existing SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) Convention and IMO (International Maritime Organisation) Regulations, a lifeboat must be inspected by qualified personnel (usually certified engineers by lifeboat manufacturer) annually and every 5-yearly. The items for annual inspections covers:
- General Outfit (Hull, Canopy, Door, Hatches, Hand-rail, Lifeline, Painter Release Device, etc.)
- Lifeboat’s on-load release gears/mechanism
- Engine/Propulsion System.
- Electrical Devices/Parts (Battery, lighting, charger, etc.)
- Air Supply System (For Tanker Version only)
- Sprinkler /Water Spray System (For Tanker Version only)
The on-load release gears can be activated under full load conditions, is equipped with a hydrostatic interlock mechanism so as to prevent accidental opening of hooks when the boat is not waterborne.
For 5-yearly inspection all items are similar to those for annual inspection, except for open-hook test which is carried out with 110% load.
Lifeboats are installed on launching appliance/davit-winch system which consists of a davit (davit arm, frame, platform, fall wire-ropes, suspension blocks, lashing devices, etc.) and a winch (usually electric motor driven and consists of gear box, drums, mechanical brake and governor brakes, etc.)
Lifeboat can be lowered by manually activating a brake handle/lever or by controlling a remote-control wire inside the boat.
Recovery of boat is done by operating the push-button of the electrical switch box pertaining to the davit-winch system.
Similar to the case of lifeboats, davit-winch system has to be serviced and inspected annually and at 5-yearly interval.
If boat davit and/or boat winch are not well-maintained, it cannot function properly. In extreme cases it can result in:
- Failure to launch properly causing violent swing/shock and results in injuries of crew;
- Falling of lifeboats causing injuries or even deaths.