SOLAS regulation, which says “…every crew member shall participate in at least one abandon ship drill and one fire drill every month…” is widely known. However, not every training with survival crafts is done monthly and to make it even more complicated there are certain variations on the lowering, launching and maneuvering frequencies depending on the type of ship’s equipment. This post idea is to bring some extra light on the subject of abandon ship drills.
How often abandon ship drill has to be carried out?
It is the very first question to ask, after asking “WHY they have to carried out?” Answer is easy. Because abandon ship is not something that happens to crew on a daily basis. Nevertheless, in the ocean there is no emergency service to come and save our lives. So crew has to know what and how to do, and not less important to be able to communicate efficiently and work as a team in case of emergency.
Frequency of drills itself is clearly stated in SOLAS Ch. III/19.3 Drills:
But that’s not all. According to SOLAS Ch. III/19.4 each crewmember “as soon as possible but not later than two weeks after joining the ship” has to be given an on-board training in the use of the ship's life-saving appliances, including survival craft equipment, and in the use of the ship's fire-extinguishing appliances. ALL the ship's life-saving and fire-extinguishing appliances shall be covered within any period of two months.
What if you work 4/4 or 5/5 weeks on the same ship? Then “such training shall be given not later than two weeks after the time of first joining the ship.”
What shall abandon ship drill include?
As per SOLAS Ch. III/184.108.40.206:
.1 summoning of passengers and crew to muster stations with the alarm required by regulation 6.4.2 (general alarm: 7 short and one prolonged blasts) followed by drill announcement on the public address or other communication system and ensuring that they are made aware of the order to abandon ship;
.2 reporting to stations and preparing for the duties described in the muster list;
.3 checking that passengers and crew are suitably dressed;
.4 checking that lifejackets are correctly donned;
.5 lowering of at least one lifeboat after any necessary preparation for launching;
.6 starting and operating the lifeboat engine;
.7 operation of davits used for launching liferafts;
.8 a mock search and rescue of passengers trapped in their staterooms; and
.9 instruction in the use of radio life-saving appliances;
a training in the use of the ship's life-saving appliances as described above;
3.4.9 Emergency lighting for mustering and abandonment shall be tested at each abandon ship drill.
What are the safety precautions for lifeboats lowering by means of falls?
First of all, there is a difference between lowering and launching of the boat. Lowering is actually means to bring the boat secured on hooks to about 1 meter above the water level and then to put it back in stowed position. Launching means further disconnection from the hooks and maneuvering. That’s why lowering by means of falls (!not a free fall) shall be done monthly. Launching, on the other hand, done as SOLAS Ch. III/220.127.116.11:
There are also additional precautions mentioned in IMO MSC.1/Circ. 1578 Guidelines on safety during abandon ship drills using lifeboats:
1.5 Planning and organizing drills
2.3 Lifeboats lowered by means of falls
However, there is even further clarification, which is quite obscured, because you may not find a reference to it in SOLAS directly. IMO MSC.1/Circ. 1326 Clarification of SOLAS regulation III/19:
What are the regulations for free-fall lifeboats?
Certainly, the regulations for davit-launched lifeboats cannot apply to free fall lifeboats. In this case crew shall refer to SOLAS Ch. III/18.104.22.168:
As per latest IMO circular MSC.1-Circ.1578 simulated launching is a means of training the crew in the free-fall release procedure of free-fall lifeboats without the physical activation of release mechanism. The last statement means that you may never launch this kind of lifeboat by means of free fall.
Another thing to remember is the difference in use of lifejackets with different types of lifeboats. For the lifeboats launched by falls LSA code 22.214.171.124.1 states:
Which literally means that you can embark a lifeboat in a rigid lifejacket. However, this is not the case of free fall lifeboats. In fact, launching a free fall lifeboat with crew in rigid lifejackets may lead to the worst possible consequences. A common practise is to use inflatable life vests or just to take rigid life jackets inside a free fall lifeboat without putting them on.
Is that all?
Not yet. If the vessel equipped with davit operated life rafts, there is one more thing to do as per SOLAS Ch. III/19.4.3:
What are the time criteria for preparation and launching of survival crafts?
First of all lets refer to SOLAS Ch. III/13-14:
Additionally, Resolution A.1052(27) Procedures for port state control, APPENDIX 7 states:
All drills and trainings activities have to be duly recorded in the ship’s logbook. If the vessel has a deck logbook and an additional flag logbook, then all drills shall also be recorded in the later one as well. If a full muster, drill or training session is not held at the appointed time, an entry shall be made in the log-book stating the circumstances and the extent of the muster, drill or training session held.
Also details of drills shall be filled in company’s SMS drill reports. Details of any tests or malfunctions have to be reflected in ship’s PMS (preventive maintenance system).
Hopefully, this material provides you with more or less full scope of drills, trainings and launchings that have to be carried out with survival crafts on board.
To summarize, whatever the training requirement arise at the moment, occupational safety shall be always in the first place. Be safe!