Safety Requirements That Kill More Than They Save

For decades, SOLAS regulations have mandated On-Load, Release, Retrieval Systems (OLRRS) for lifeboats, whose complicated and non-transparent name conveys the functionality of these complicated and non-transparent contraptions, which habitually kill innocent seamen. Back in the ’80s, some desk bound marine safety officials cooked up a requirement that lifeboat davit wire hooks had to be able to release a boat full of people when the weight of the boat was still on the davit wires. While it is possible to imagine a rare circumstance when such a capability may be useful, the large number of seamen who have died while testing these clunky and hard to use devices proves that they are useless.

If anyone knows of a case where OLRRS devices have saved lives, please let us know. SOLAS and IMO admit there is a problem insofar as their faceless committees keep issuing “updated circulars”, such as Marine Safety Committee-1’s 2011 update number 1392, which itself is like the deadly devices themselves, clunky and hard to understand.

Dysfunctional lifeboat OLRRS devices are not the only example, but Fast Rescue Craft (FRC), mandated on certain classes of passenger vessels since the Estonia ferry disaster in 1994 is another. An IMO committee thinks that a fragile FRC could be of use in picking up man overboard victims, when in fact, rough seas recovery via davit of small craft, is a death trap for unwitting users. Worse, FRC rules mandate davit launching capability under conditions of no ship’s power, which has introduced some of the most complicated and nontransparent hydraulic systems known to man. Systems which are far outside the ability of ordinary crewmen to understand or fix in the case of malfunction.
Our offshore and maritime industries need a Sensible Safety User Committee to critically review well meaning safety rules which cause more harm than good.

Safety rules need to consider the mechanics of human accidents.

Physical factors (e.g. defective or badly designed equipment) combined with human shortcomings (e.g. too-high workload, boredom or fatigue) cause injuries. Both need to be understood within the context of probable risk. Too many safety rules are created with insufficient regard to the context in which humans perform work.
For example, in the case of those compulsory FRBs, more than once during Class Surveys, I have seen crewmen brush death in FRB recovery operations being made by vessels tied up to the wharf on sunny days in sheltered harbors. Therefore any future Sensible Safety User Committee should personally invite those individual members of the SOLAS IMO, who endorse compulsory Fast Rescue Boats on large passenger vessels, to come on board and personally show us how to launch and recover an FRB from the deck of an Estonia-like Baltic Sea ferry at night in a winter storm.
There is the larger topic of HMI – Human Machine Interface, (ergonomics) much of which is also swept under the carpet. Imagine if cars had no standardized controls, e.g. the clutch, brake and accelerator pedal were randomly located, according to the whim of the manufacturer. That is the case with today’s cranes and man-lifts. HMI defects plague modern systems because the regulators and designers have never had to use them. Bad HMI design is a topic which needs its own series of articles.

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The stupid imo silly old farts dont even know there are PC’s on the bridge until ecdis came along and then they had their oh sh1t moment…
Wait till they find out all DP systems are different…
Do they know DP exists yet?

I’ve assumed for years that the release gear on the lifeboats was unsafe. I’ve had a couple “discussions” with pompous, officious Port State Control personnel about appropriate procedures etc and the officals hint that my unease about the gear is rooted in poor seamanship.

About six months ago we recieved an official notice from the manufacture that the releasing gear was unsafe and urgently had to be replaced.

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[QUOTE=powerabout;191080]The stupid imo silly old farts dont even know there are PC’s on the bridge until ecdis came along and then they had their oh sh1t moment…
Wait till they find out all DP systems are different…
Do they know DP exists yet?[/QUOTE]

IMO has very clear rules for DP systems and DP operations:

Accepted industry guidance that forms the basis of safe DP operations is the International Maritime
Organization (IMO) MSC/Circ.645 – Guidelines for vessels with dynamic positioning systems.

Here is a link that may work:

If not, google it.

you do know IMO 645 is 20+ years out of date ( it was given to them )and class only vaguely followed it then and now.
ECDIS was so well planned you are now ( in 2016) allowed to turn it off if you have paper based charts up to date and the Master feels the crew are not competent to operate it.

The release gear is necessary IOT ensure that the forward hook does not release before the aft.
The onload release is necessary IOT ensure that the boat can be released safely in rough weather on the crest of a swell.
Having said that, it must be accepted that the current design is unreliable and unsafe.
The present design is safe only for very small vessels, no bigger than handymax ships.
For ships bigger than handymax size, the amplitude of the oscillations of the lifeboat hanging from the davits is far in excess of the strength of the materials.
The FRP is not a strong material for lifeboats in heavy weather.
This is an area that requires a totally new approach and a completely new vehicle for abandoning ships

Free fall launches great. The boats themselves do a fine job once they are safely in the water. Just don’t be too eager to recover it, especially from a semi-submersible.

Only when seats face aft

Never encountered any with the seats facing forward.

We live in different worlds then.

I would be surprised if any company makes them with seats facing forward. (Other than the coxswain’s seat, obviously.)

I have worked on two ships with free fall lifeboats with seats facing forward and one ship with seats facing aft.
Just goes to show the depth of regulatory framework for safety.
The worst part is the documentation. Both the Chinese and the Japanese shipbuilding industry produce English language documentation that is atrocious, to put it mildly.

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My beef about On-Load, Release, Retrieval Systems (OLRRS) for lifeboats is about so-called “safety systems” that killed far more people than the lives those system are supposed to save. I would like to see the statistics for Fast Rescue Craft too. (I suspect that far more sailors have been killed testing FRCs than they have saved lives.)

These issues have now been dragging on for decades; why is this not discussed and debated by those chair bound marine experts at IMO and SOLAS?

Why is the marine asset owning community not more vigorously defending the safety and well being of the world’s seagoers?