Reducing lifeboat risks

Lifeboat safety is improving but there is still more to be done

By Captain Kuba Szymanski

InterManager, the international trade association for ship and crew managers, is leading a drive to improve lifeboat safety and to reduce the risks associated with lifeboat testing and use.

Working with the IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS), InterManager is collating figures for lifeboat incidents on behalf of the international maritime community to inform discussions on lifeboat safety matters. The Association’s work has revealed that, since 1981, there have been 420 deaths involving lifeboats, 346 serious injuries and 116 minor injuries.

InterManager is an active member of the International Lifeboat Group and, as a non-governmental organisation at the IMO, discusses the concerns at a global level. Its activities have raised awareness of procedural and technical risks associated with lifeboat use and have already resulted in industry improvements.

SOLAS regulation III/ requires each lifeboat to be launched at least once every three months during an abandon ship drill and manoeuvred in the water by its assigned operating crew. As a result of industry concerns, in 2009 the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee agreed that the assigned operating crew should not be required to be on board lifeboats during launching, unless the Master, within the authority conferred to him/her by paragraph 5.5 of the ISM Code, considers it necessary, taking into account all safety aspects.

But there is still more to do to ensure seafarers are not at risk during lifeboat use. The industry has been working on lifeboat safety for over 40 years, but measures taken so far have not had sufficient effect and we are still needlessly risking lives.

It’s important that everyone involved, particularly Port State Control officers, understand and apply the regulations correctly. The maritime community must do all we can to ensure the safety of seafarers.

Captain Kuba Szymanski is secretary general of InterManager.


“There is still more to do to ensure seafarers are not at risk during lifeboat use” Captain Kuba Szymanski

The European Union-led and -funded Safedor project has led to the develop- ment of the world’s largest inflatable lifeboat which launches at the push of a button and automatically inflates, taking just four minutes to deploy.

Survitec, manufacturer of the Seahaven, says that the slide-based survival technology improves passenger evacuation time without compromising on safety. Once deployed, the inflatable lifeboat can travel independently for 24 hours at a speed of six knots.

Seahaven has completed IMO A.520 physical tests as required by classification society Lloyd’s Register, which included a ship sinking scenario and a timed evacuation, which was achieved in less than 22 minutes. Under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) rules, evacuation should not exceed 30 min- utes. During the A.520 tests, conditions were created to mirror those that sea- farers and passengers would encounter in a real-life evacuation.

The A.520 tests follow the December 2021 success of Heavy Weather Sea Trials, carried out in line with SOLAS requirements for Novel Appliances.