Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

Quality operators take lead on lifeboat hook issue

Posted on | November 18, 2011 | No Comments

There are many definitions of a “good” ship operator. “Somebody who does what is right, without regulatory pressure or mandatory provisions” might be as good a definition as you can find.

One of the real scandals which has disfigured marine safety for several years has been the terrible loss of life and serious injury that has occurred with accidents involving lifeboats and launching mechanisms, mostly involving the on-load release hooks which seemed such a good idea at the time. It took far too long for the industry to agree the mandatory guidelines for the release and retrieval systems now found in MSC.1/Circ.1392; several years of fruitless arguing, during which time a lot more seafarers and others were killed and injured in needless accidents.

But at least there is now a requirement for all operators to test the equipment they have fitted to their ships, and to replace it where necessary, and the manufacturers have also had to comply with far more rigorous testing than hitherto. The manufacturers Schat-Harding helpfully point out that these rules apply to new boats from 1 July 2014, but there are also tests to be applied to existing hooks and if they fail to meet the set standards, they will have to be upgraded at the first drydocking after this date, but no later than 1 July 2019.

This major manufacturer has now completed testing its SeaCure lifeboat release and retrieval system, and also developed a Secondary Safety System for this hook. It seems likely that other reputable major manufacturers will be also ensuring that their equipment meets the new criteria.

But it is worth pointing out that there are literally hundreds of types of on load hooks in service, often supplied by shipyards, which is of course one of the problems, and which has contributed to this loss of life and injury among the people who ought to be able to depend on their LSA in extremis. There will be thousands of hooks which, although accepted by owners in good faith when they took delivery of their ships, will be potentially dangerous and require upgrading. There is also scope to kill and maim quite a lot of seafarers before the mandatory dates of 2014 and 2019.

Good shipowners will not be waiting for these “test and replace-by” dates but will be hurrying to ensure that their own equipment is thoroughly safe, just as soon as it is possible. Schat-Harding tells us that more than 100 owners have already re-hooked their lifeboats with their equipment. Good shipowners all!

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