The lifeboat wall of shame

Do you have a link to the article?

Are you saying Norwegians can do no wrong??? It’s not really in John’s job description to answer or appease your questions & curiosities.

Well, I will say I’ve always had excellent experiences with norsafe boats.

You’re really surprised that the yard, class, flag (not American), and the owner all accepted it?

Well, I’ll explain it to you. You can’t just put any boat on any davit. Sure, you can reject a boat but the yard is just going to swap it out with an identical model from the same mfg. You can, of course, reject that entire model of boats but then you have to cut away the davits and find new ones to weld on… which the yard is happy to so IF you agree to a delay or give them a concession on another item. When dayrates for your vessel are north of $500,000 /day then guess what… your CEO does not even want to hear the “D” word.

But all parties agree to making a note of the problem and encourage you to try out the boat on your return to the gulf ( never-mind the fact that you don’t really need a lifeboat when you reach the Gulf and are constantly surrounded by stby vessels but you would really like one during the transit) and if it causes any problems they’d (the shipyard) be happy to honor a warranty claim.

So the yrs suggests they give you an old one from their warehouse and strap it to the deck. And your chief offers to “make it work somehow” so you make a side deal and accept it with a trial notation. Then when you get home and the file a warranty claim

Except when you get home and file the claim it doesn’t become cash in the ship’s account. No, it becomes a bargaining chip for the CEO to use to leverage something from the shipyard for one of the vessels behind you.

Then the client inspection comes and they go apeshit and threaten to kick you off contract and you say “finally some gives a shit” and you and the client inspector become friends and the client inspector tells his boss who goes nuclear on the CEO. The CEO gets really worried and yells at the shipyard for putting him in this mess. The shipyard phones up class (if you follow the money shipowners of newbuilds may pay class but they don’t get to pock then… the shipyard does. Hence class doesn’t care what you CEO says but when the shipyard calls them Class decides your regular inspector is way overdue for vacation (which is usually true) and sends a young surveyor in his place.

You show the surveyor the problem but he asks a bunch of really dumb questions like “It would be interesting to know how you determined the thickness of the lifeboats?” And makes a lot of stupid statements like “Nor do I believe that all Surveyors that must have inspected these vessels after delivery are either incompetent or crocked and on the take.”

When the Class inspection report arrives the only thing wrong with the ship is you! It contains statements like “Captain reported significant stress cracking, blah, blah, blah but inspector did not notice major deficiencies (because he never entered the lifeboat or, if he did, has no clue what he’s looking at) but advises that if the captain is still concerned he should schedule and inspection with the local lifeboat surveyor.

Your CEO shows that report to the client and tells them their marine inspector is wrong but welcomes the client to fly the marine inspection team back out. They schedule it for a few months down the road then keep pushing it back until all is forgotten.

At this point, you call the local LB inspector and schedule an appointment. He says he’s backed up can show up in six months then calls once a month to keep pushing the date back. You find out that your bosun’s unclear’ cousin’s stepson went to kindergarten with this guy and he can pull a few strings and get him out asap. Yeah, let’s do that, you say and, to tour surprise it happens! The guy shows up at the helo deck the next day. You find that this inspector really knows his shit and he starts walking around the lifeboat (which, BTW looks like a giant rubber dildo from an old woody allen movie) whistling and muttering “I heard these new boats where bad but this is a goddanm death trap!’ Then he asks you questions like “how in hell did you make it halfway across the world without this thing cracking in two?

You get excited and say! Can you write this up in a report! “I sure can he says!” and does but the mfg asks for a second opinion from another firm (which is booked solid for 8 months!) and you don’t say shit in response because you no longer care because you where run off that rig mo tha ago and sent to some pos floater in Brazil.

InSo to answer your question, no, the class inspectors are not incompetent, or crocked and on the take. The shipyard is!

Everything in the shipyard, every problem, every unforeseen problem, every misgake made by anyone involved turns into a poker chip which are swapped at the weekly meetings between owner and shipyard. When shit doesn’t get done and someone like me complains class offer a transit excemption which gives whoever sold that chip at least 6 months to smooth over the problem. Sometimes the owner gives in the chip for an exchange then really does spend mknth to fix the problem Once it starts drilling… but usually it is forgotten.


Why would a large lifeboat mfg with a ton of orders and a solid reputation (the once manufactured) get bought out by a hedge fund and be forced to merge with a compeitor.

I know, I know the market downturn combined with an uneven financial structure (read: bullshit) combined with the ability to eliminate redundancy (read: fire lots of people) created strategic opportunities for both companies.

Bullshit! And you know how I now it’s bullshit because I went to business school, I grew up in NYC with friends who now run hedge funds and I read these bullshit reports everyday

Want to know the turth? Great companies with great products don’t fail in downturns… they thrive because the companies that make shitty products die or are absorbed and “restructured” (read: fire the idots who let quality drop) thus reducing competition.


What so this company can start harrassing my confidential sources? Fat chance!

I have a long history and solid reputation of protecting sources who expose unsafe and/or criminal behavior… and my silence does not come with an expiration date.

In fact some of the people who have sent us highly confidential and damaging information which outs them in legal (and sometimes physical) harm… have self destruct passwords to the gCaptain server. We burn them and they can oress the delete button on this entire website!


They are still up but, admittedly, not easy to find.

And no, I’m not going to send you a PM because:

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And, as already mentioned, I have nothing but good things to say about norsafe… so, to be clear, it’s not them.

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Lots of corruption in that free fall boat industry and lots of crap design being passed.
Did you know that if one of those boats rolls upside down it stays there…
Watched a demonstration in a port in Malaysia once as it was a bet between a naval architect and class

when they get to blackmail, isnt that when you call the police?


My scariest moments at sea involve lifeboats and drills. Pictures like that is one of the reasons I feel it’s idiotic to do a drill with the lifeboat full of people. To much risk.


I wonder if those scary lifeboats are still onboard any vessels?

Freefall lifeboat concepts have been around for 110 years. The earliest known patent was issued to AE Falk of Stockholm, Sweden, on 30th March 1897. It was to be stern-launched from a ramp at a height of three metres.

In 1959 the modern-type of freefall lifeboat came into being. A Dutch sea captain approached yacht-builder Joost Verhoef of Aalsmeer, Netherlands with an idea for a freefall lifeboat. Verhoef designed and built the first such lifeboat of aluminium and the design went into service in 1961 but was not popular with shipping companies, being significantly more expensive that traditional davit-launched designs.

Lifeboats in general are not designed to be durable, something of particular concern with regard to hull strength, a critical factor in the safety of freefall lifeboats. A 1993 study suggested that fibreglass hulls can, over time, loose as much as 50 per cent of hull strength, something especially undesirable in a freefall lifeboat. Note that Joost Verhoef’ free fall lifeboat is made out of aluminum which is to be preferred.

Some years ago the Norwegian offshore was troubled by a free fall incident and since then have taken measures to improve the situation. A problem is that vessels have a much lower freeboard than offshore installations. As a result the effects of accelerations on occupants and possible damage to the craft’s structure will be much greater when launched from an offshore rig.

Extensive studie found that neither freefall nor davit-lowered lifeboats on the NCS satisfied the official requirements for evacuation. Weaknesses related to the structural strength of lifeboat superstructures and hulls, gravitational forces acting on passengers, and the propulsion needed to escape from a facility.

The development of the free fall lifeboat has, until now, not been exactly a walk in the park…

So now you are talking about own experience on a Drillship, not a brief visit to a Korean shipyard.

If this happened the way you describe it reflects very badly on the culture in the company you worked for and the shipyard in Korea that built it, as well as the inspection and regulatory regime by Class, Flag state and, in this case, USCG as the shelf state while working in the GoM.

The manufacturer of the lifeboats, (which presumable was of the freefall type?) has been narrowed down to two, both of which now belong to the same, actually Austrian group.

Since there are very few Drillships with freefall lifeboats and only two of those are owned by an American company, we can also narrow that down to one Owner.

If you, as Master, found the lifeboats to be faulty,did you report that to the flag state? (In this case presumably Marshall Island/ISR) and to USCG on entry into US EEZ?

As I said, I have never seen or heard of any claim that any of the three Norwegian manufacturers of freefall lifeboats had delivered defective boats. ( except the Veslefrikk incident)

May sound stupid to you, but in your original post you appeared to be able to determine thickness by looking at a lifeboat. (X-Ray Vision?)
And yes I do maintain that it is highly unlikely that all Surveyors that have inspected this ship and others with dangerously faulty lifeboats are stupid, incompetent, or on the take.

I have experienced all kinds of lack of knowledge, incompetence and stupidity in the Offshore and Shipping industries that may result in dangerous situation arising and/or gets overlooked, but this does not sound like that.

Neither have I experienced that the entire chain of Owner’s Inspectors, Shipbuilding Managers, Class Surveyors, Statutory Authorities and even Client Inspectors are willing to cover up anything as serious as this. (Individually maybe, but in a concerted effort ??)

I’m surprised that you appears to have joined in the effort as well.

No, no, no, no, NO!

I am not talking about my personal experience. We received MANY complaints from MANY types of ships of several flags built at SEVERAL shipyards. That story is just an example of how the system works… not my personal story.


I really don’t have anything to do with this entire issue.

I, as editor of gCaptain, got a lot of complaints.
I researched the story and talked with lifeboat experts.
I waited to see for myself
I wrote one article about these terrible boats
The manufacturer threatened suit

That’s it.

Why are you making it out like it’s “my problem”? All I did was write one single article.

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Because @ombugge is responding to what he thinks the posts say, he either doesn’t read or doesn’t make an attempt to understand the posts he responds to.


Yes and that ”individual” is the shipyard!

Unless you want to design and build a ship exactly to the specifications of your own Naval Architects (which costs a lot more $$) then the shipyard holds all the cards.

And nothing is as black or white as you suggest.

Nobody makes demands. No one forces a master to sail with broken equipment. BUT they do all oil the wheels (I’m taking reducing friction not cash payouts) to deliver the ship on time and under budget.

In this game the shipyard holds all the cards.

The shipyard “suggests” which class to pick
The shipyard “suggests” you use their in-house naval architects
The shipyard “suggests” which Flag to fly
The shipyard “suggests” which lifeboat to use
The shipyard “suggests” a local davit company
The shipyard pushes safety equipment suppliers to lower costs
The shipyard washes it’s hands of the matter after the one year warranty runs out.
When someone dies years later the shipyard is never called into court to testify.

Everyone in the process is motivated to lower costs and reduce delivery times.

Norsafe and some of the old Schat-Harding boats have a similar aesthetic. It’s a mix of modern and classically well built. My favorite lifeboat of all time was built in Norway, it was a beast… the boat just looked tough and appealing…like it would survive anything.

But the Norwegian built boat I mention as being terrible didn’t look Norweigan, it had a distinctly Asian aesthetic.

My guess, and this is only a guess, is the boat was designed by a team of in-house shipyard architects (who care deeply about cost and only 1 year of survivability) in Korea and built in Norway on spec.

If the shipyards did send design plans and very detailed build instructions to Norway… I would not blame the Norway company for building exactly what was ordered by their client. The problem comes (And it’s a BIG problem) when the manufacturer stamps their name, certifications and reputation on a shitty design they had nothing to do with.

And this is where I come in. Why would they be upset at a blogger who is not an inspector, does not have any power to arrest a ship, cannot sue them for incompetence?

The only place I can hurt is their reputation. But if their reputation was the only reason why the shipyards picked them (surely they could have it built on spec in China for less) then it becomes a BIG problem when that reputation is challenged.


You misquoted. This is what I said:

And that I stand by.

You raise pretty strong accusations against both fairly easily identifiable Norwegian Lifeboat manufacturers that, even though under new ownership, still exists.
Likewise, you imply that Korean Shipyards are less than honest in their dealings with their clients and supply inferiour 3rd party equipment.

Your guess that the boats were designed by the Koreans and manufactured in Norway does not sound logical.
More likely the boats were designed by the Norwegian company, type approved by all the major Class Societies and NMD, but produced under their supervision, or at their own facilities, in China. With Class approval for each individual boat by whichever Classification Society each vessel is under. At least that is how it is normally done.

I have never heard of any Norwegian manufacturer stamping their name on - and/or lend their certification to - some inferior product designed by others.

But you are right that the Korean business model is to build long series of standard designs, with as much as possible of the machinery and equipment the same and minimum “Owner supplied”. That is why many of the Drillships and Semis would come directly to Singapore for modifications and installation of additional equipment.

Then I have a book written that I’d love for you to read, it’s free to download here:

It’s written by the former head of Naval Architecture at MIT, the top engineering school in the USA… which may not count for much in your mind but does mean it’s well researched with lots of footnotes, evidence and source material for you to find fault with.