4 July 2022
RMT Press Office:
Maritime union RMT has been campaigning vigorously over the past few years for the safety of its members when undertaking lifeboat drills.
RMT will shortly be continuing discussions with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to continue our discussions on lifeboat safety.
RMT’s key high-level items are:
• Maintenance and safety equipment installation and maintenance
• Drills- frequency, conditions, location on which drill takes place
• Personnel onboard during lifeboat lowering in drills- how many onboard and at what stage should they embark the lifeboat?
Seafarers are dying needlessly in lifeboat accidents when maritime legislation does not actually require vessels to be manned during drills.
There has been a legislative change which means that it is not necessary for crew to be onboard when lifeboats are tested.
SOLAS regulation III/18.104.22.168 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. However, the regulation, whilst requiring each lifeboat to be manoeuvred in the water by its assigned operating crew, does not actually require that crew to be on board when the lifeboat is launched.
Many of the lifeboat fatalities have occurred during launch of the lifeboats, often due to problems with the hooks.
The risk of an accident from inadvertent release of the lifeboat on-load hooks is unacceptably high. Fall preventer devices should be used to control the risk and stay safe.
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.
This seems to have been missed by some ship operators and is still included in some Shipboard/ Safety Management Systems. To prevent any further loss of life in this way RMT will continue to raise awareness of the fact that seafarers are not required to be in the lifeboat when launching during drills.
Since 1981 there have been 419 deaths involving lifeboats, 346 serious injuries and 116 minor injuries.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch says “these figures are shocking and it’s about time the industry started listening to the RMT- corroborated by safety experts- 2022 should be the year that seafarer’s lives are no more placed at risk by any unsafe practice associated with lifeboat drills. Vigorous safety regulations should be established with regard to safety hooks and fall preventers and RMT believes that no lifeboat should be lowered with personnel onboard, rather that they should board just above the water line”