CHIRP has received several reports concerning the launching of rescue boats and the use of the lowering equipment. We highlight the experiences that have been reported.
a) During the recovery of a rescue boat the crane came to a rapid stop. The stopping of the crane in such a manner can cause equipment damage and even loss of life in case of heavy weather. On inspection, it was noted the arrangement of the chain connected to the weight on the limit switch had been modified by the crew. Instead of being connected from the top of the weight, the chain was passing through the same hole as the hoist wire and then connected on the bottom of the weight causing the diameter of the hole to be reduced. Additionally, small amounts of grease had hardened and accumulated close to the limit switch. Both faults caused the weight to lift and activate the limit switch.
b) Whilst lowering the rescue boat to the sea surface, it was observed that connection wires did not have sufficient length to operate the handles on the rescue boat crane, making it impossible to operate the crane safely from the rescue boat.
c) A rescue boat failed to launch during a drill when using emergency hydraulic accumulators. After several attempts the operators found that the accumulators’ pressure was zero and on inspection they found the changeover hydraulic valves were rusty and non-operational. In the case of a real emergency with a power blackout, it was impossible to lower the rescue boat down to sea water level. Whilst lowering the rescue boat to the sea surface, it was observed that the remote operational handles on the rescue boat crane did not have enough length in the connection wires. There is no possibility to operate the crane properly from the rescue boat. It was noted there were no procedures for lowering the rescue boat without power.
• Crew must not modify the design of life saving appliances without first consulting the manufacturer, Flag State or Classification Society if delegated to carry out statutory oversight.
• The inspection and maintenance of the rescue boat and crane should be included in the ship’s Planned Maintenance System (PMS).
Rescue boat drills are important as they can highlight problems during the launching and recovery of the boats. All lifesaving and rescue equipment should also be included in the Planned Maintenance System with changes to equipment correctly recorded together with any communications with Flag State and/or Classification Society on the notification. Wires and their inspection should be included in the wire ropes register. Ensure there are written procedures for lowering the rescue boat without power.
No mention has been made in the reports of the fall connections but these may be either on-load or off-load type hooks. Safeguards against premature release should be used, (often pins in the hooks) but Fall Preventer Device (FPD) sling could be rigged until just above the water (see photo).
Off-load types with a spring-loaded pre-cocking facility should not be cocked until just above the water as irregularities in lowering accelerations – bounces, sudden descents and snagging of grablines are examples – can cause these to release.