Design Issues with free fall lifeboats

Report Text:

Ship owner to Shipyard. Please advise what is being done or has been done to date to address the problem with free-fall life boat. As brought to your attention previously, free-fall lifeboat is not in compliance with LSA Code Chapter IV which calls for at least 650mm free clearance (see attached) in front of the backrest. Current distance is only about 150mm which can be fatal to any person sitting in that seat. We urge you to address this with the maker and class head office and implement corrective measure before vessel delivery. This is considered to be serious noncompliance that is not only extremely hazardous but can also result in vessel detention by authorities.

lifeboat1     lifeboat2


CHIRP was advised by the ship owner that 4 freefall lifeboats are designed and built not to the LSA Code but were type approved by one Classification Society before bought by the ship yard, then approved by a second Classification Society as the new building surveyor. The yard installed the head strap on two vessels. The second Classification Society claimed the design was type approved as when boat is launched the person occupying the controls seat will be facing aft so should be satisfactory. CHIRP was advised that after reconsider – ation by a senior surveyor at the second Classi fication Society and a PSC inspector, the arrangement was noncompliant. The manufacturer and first Classification Society that gave type approval were reviewing the case.

Lessons Learned: Owners are demonstrating the value of careful testing of all equipment installed on a new build ship. Always conduct a full risk assessment of the operations and ensure the risk is managed to be as low as reasonably practical. Despite launching of the free fall lifeboat during a trial the risk of fatality was not identified Do not assume the Classification Society certification meets LSA Code minimum requirements. The Flag state has advised “The number of persons allowed on the Form E will be reduced by one and the seat immediately aft of the releasing gear will be taken out of service until an engineering fix is complete.”

CHIRP Comment

The ship owner has rightly shared their concerns over the dangerous design. The root cause appears to be the capability of the manufacturer and the Classification Societies in their delivery of safe life saving appliances. It is disappointing they have not shared the reasons why a fundamental error in design was not identified by their own rules and procedures and how they will ensure this will not happen in other lifeboats. Owners should not assume a Classification Society’s approval is always correct and appropriate and crew should check their lifeboats on board to ensure there is no similar design fault that could result in a fatality.