Life boats

it’s about time they seriously addressed the lifeboat situation. I can’t image what it must be like to ride one of those head first at the approximately 45-degree angle where they are placed midships behind the house on most merchant vessels. has anyone on the forum actually experienced a launch? I would like to hear their thoughts.

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Free fall boats are not placed midship. They are located on the stern. Lots of us have launched one - it is unpleasant.

The midship boats are on gravity davits. Much smoother ride down.

Both have their own issues, for sure.


What situation?

Arent they called death boats, killed more in training than saved in emergencys?

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probably should have clarified I meant centerline on the stern behind the house. the impact from the freefall must be close to unbearable.

i would imagine due to freeboard that canopy type canister rafts are out of the question.

It’s not that bad. It’s worse than any wooden roller coaster I’ve ever been on, but in a life or death situation I’d gladly pump that handle.


Id much rather trust a free fall lifeboat to a gravity fall lifeboat, and certainly to an open lifeboat. Thebworst part about the freefall boats that ive been in are thr lack of leg room. Youre strapped in backwards, and brace yourself for the least amount of jostling a lot less moving parts that swinging a boat out over the side in a hurricane, getting the boat to the water, than both falls, or cables to actually release simultaneously and also be free from the ship and have no risk of getting tangled. The freefall boat just has one hook.

I feel like I should know if they are always required but from tugs, to cruise ships, to aircraft carriers ive always seen them. You just need to have a long enough painter (line) for it to reach the water. Then you have to get in the water to get in the raft most of the time, unless you take your chances with a davit launched life raft. In theory, they will float free and deploy themselves once the vessel sinks past a certain depth.

If anything id like to see companies and regulatory agencies put tighter plans in place for life boat maintenance.

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The main issue is not the performance in an abandon ship scenario it’s the deaths and injuries during training and maintenance.

Lifeboats on Cargo Ships Need to Be Redesigned to Improve Crew Safety

From that article:

“The point to a 2017 report from the UK Chamber of Shipping as recognition of the problem. The UK article identified 60 fatalities during the testing of lifeboats over a 10-year period”

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I still cannot believe that after El Faro and the findings about the crews potential survival chances if they had a freefall enclosed boat that USCG did not mandate the retirement of the old open-top gravity/davit boats. Doubly so for ships that operate in cold weather/cold water environs.

Everybody has seen the videos of freefall drills gone awry and read about the injuries and deaths resulting from them, but there have also been a fair number of incidents, injuries and deaths with the davit boats too during training evolutions. Neither is a guaranteed safe or fun experience I’d imagine, doubly so in an emergency situation with panicked and potentially injured crew and passengers aboard, but I suppose broken bones and bruises would be better than fatalities in either case.

Your also limited with Davit launch if the vessel take a list

Free fall lifeboat has been in use since 1983 (30 years) and counting.
In that time there have been some spectacular videos circulated, both of failures:

Successful test drops from 60 m.:

Training drop from 40m.:

As well as rough weather tests:

One thing has become clear; there are no present way of escaping from a ship, rig or fixed platform, especially if there are burning oil on the water.
(Even evacuation by helicopter frequently requires the survivors to jump in the water as there are no safe way of winching from the ship)

PS> I have done one training drop (R’dam 1988) from 20 m. and can attest to the nervous feeling while the instructor was SLOWLY pumping up pressure for the release mechanism.


YOU actually did that it! I would’ve pissed my pants😀
Fact is I don’t even do roller coasters. Hate the feeling of free fall

So is there a solution? Maybe a slot in the transom above the water line with a marine ways type track. Then again how would you reach it from the exterior? Transom ladder vertically welded to the stern or pocket ladder to a catwalk ???
Pretty hairy in a seaway

I did it because I had an assignment in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea (Ekofisk Field)
The free fall was part of the 1 week compulsory training required to be allowed there.
(I spent 10 min. actually on the Ekofisk Center)

Here is a video about the latest in free fall lifeboat technology:

And a presentation of the newest training center in Norway:

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This is from the Maritime Executive article

The CSSF points to alternative designs that are already available for offshore installations and for passenger evacuation on passenger and cruise ships through Marine Evacuation Systems (MES).

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Gravity David’s are designed to work up to 15 degree list on the uphill side. The leeward side should remain useable to much greater and have capacity for the entire ship. I believe those details are roughly what the regulation is.

My seagoing brother has used one of those in a drill, in his capacity as skipper of USN fast ferry HSV X-1 (Incat hull 050, now in use by Isle of Man Steam Packet Co, I believe).

He said it was a very fast ride to the bottom (you’re supposed to spread your legs against the side to control speed somewhat) where there’s a sort of bump that tips you upright into the arms of the two catchers – guess they have to get down unaided. I believe an ankle or two was strained/sprained in the exercise. This was alongside the pier in Hobart during trials. Raft capacity was 450 IIRC. The ship had four, I think – two per side.


Was that the Incat that used to be in Hawaii?

Leeward side is just a longer jump🥹

No, she was in Australia first as Devil Cat, then in New Zealand before conversion.

It is the expression on the coxswains face that is priceless as only he can see the decent. Capturing it would be a big ask.
We made up these little tin wings to those that had completed a drop.