Recently one of our ships had a potentially serious accident when the lifeboat securing hooks released under load causing the boat to fall. The manufacturers immediately blamed the crew for not reading the instruction manual properly before they last attached the hooks to the lifeboat falls. Another gripe (no pun intended) I have about lifeboats is that they are just too complicated for ordinary seafarers to use. Even I, who took a university honours degree in Nautical Studies, find the manuals confusing. Lifeboats are responsible for killing more seafarers during practice than they save in emergencies these days (this is not a figure I can prove but I’m sure I’m correct). The manufacturers expect and require that seafarers read and understand every page of their instruction manuals before they launch a lifeboat, even in an emergency.
The poor standard of some manuals has been raised repeatedly through reports to CHIRP. Accidents associated with lifeboats are reported too frequently (see following report) and a lack of familiarity with the equipment is often a factor.
Good, clear instructions in a standard format could go some way to improving matters for seafarers who transfer between different equipment types. Icon based manuals using 500 word vocabularies have been written for complex military equipment, so why can’t something comparable be developed for merchant ships?