Maritime health: SAFETY and Health in a lifeboat


Allthough the preparation of the lifeboat may not be the sole responsibility of the ship’s doctor, it is going to be very uncomfortable being in a lifeboat filled with half-drowned, injured, hypothermic, vomiting sailors on the North Atlantic high seas and no water or anti-emetic suppositories on board.

Get at least 300 meters away from the shriken vessel


Not all these articles are necessary and are dependent on need and resources of the ship.

Safety equipment
– Lifejackets
– First aid kit (to be checked by health officer or sister)
– Fire extinguisher (must be checked annually)
– Buckets (2 buckets of 9 liters- capacity each and a bouyant bailer with a diameter of not less than 200mm)

Communication and navigation
– Compass
РDistress beacon (Emergency- Postion- Indicating Rescue Beacon  EPIRBs): To alert COSPAS-SARSAR rescue consortium
– Red flare (pyrotechnics distress signal that must remain stable for 3 years since date of purchase)
– Rocket parachute flare
– Smoke or signal flare
– Radio receiver Standard VHF marine (for near inland shore)
– 121 MHz AM VHF guard channel capable of aircraft band transmission (to connect rescuer and high overflying commercial and military planes)
– Optional amateur radio
– AM/FM/Weather/Shortwave radio receiver
(this can supply precise time for celestial navigation as well as weather reports)
– GPS navigation equipment
– Daylight signalling mirror
– Whistles; it should still be effective even after submersion in water, attached to boat with lanyard
– Rescue signal tables – must be of the approved type and sealed to prevent water damage

Food and water
– Jack knife with tin opener; attached to boat with lanyard
– Multitool and/or Swiss army knife
– Fishing kit – Rot-proof fishing line of 12 meters with two traces. The trace should have 3 mackerel sized hooks spaced at 0.4 meters
– Rainwater collection equipment
– Seawater desalination equipment
– Water; is stored in a waterproof container to supply 3 liters / person / day
– Emergency high-calorie rations; food is less important than water; 10 000 grams per person in a watertight container

Boating items
– Laser pointer for signalling (green is used because shines further than red)
Remember that lasers are dangerous to low-flying pilots especially at night. It can blind them. Therefore use VERY cautiously in an emergency.
– Radar reflector – there must be a framework on the lifeboat that this can be attached to
– Lighter
– Lantern and fuel
– Waterproof flashlight; to be used for Morse Code, accompanied by spare batteries and spare bulb in waterproof container
– Heavy line
– Lifeboat boarding ladder; rope or wire rope ladders, must hang 0.4 meters below water surface when the lifeboat is in light condition. The lowest rung must be heavy so that the ladder hangs in the water
– Bailer
– Bilge pump – the hoses should be made of rubber; the suction hoses should have a suitable strainer; suction and discharge hoses should be long enough
– Boat hooks (at least two per life raft)
– Sea anchor (“sea drogue”); anchors the lifeboat in rough seas and when being towed
– Survival manual – must be waterproof
– Hatchets – there should be two, one at each end; single edged, good cutting edges, attached to the boat by lanyard
– Bowline; twice the length between stow position of boat to waterline
– Buoyant rescue quoits – 2 quoits attached to not less than 30 meters of bouyant line; the lines must be bouyant after 6 hours of water submersion
– Thermal protective aids such as immersion suits; must be stowed in such a fashion that they will not get damaged
– Search light
– Tool kit to make minor adjustments to the engine
– Internal and external lighting

– Open lifeboats have no roof and are propelled by oars
– Closed lifeboats (half- enclosed and fully-enclosed). The fully enclosed are sometimes referred to as Totally Enclosed Motor Propelled Survival Craft (TEMPSC)
– Free-fall TEMPSC: Because these enter the water very fast there is more time to get away from a sinking ship. Big ships sink rapidly and draws anything near it into the raging downward spiralling water funnel that follows the sinking ship

Retrieval of a life boat is not the primary responsibility of the medical station but when this retrieval is delayed the risk of loss of life increases dramatically

One of the problems that ships have is that they might not have a Fast Recovery craft (FRC). FRCs can be used to retrieve man-overboard victims (MOB). When there is no FRC, then TEMPSC must be used (but this will only be possible if the TEMPSC are not fully laden). TEMPSC are heavy, cumbersome craft and not well adapted to recovery of MOB. The other problem is retrieving a TEMPSC in heavy weather back onto its’ davit on the ship side is a difficult and dangerous. A fully laden TEMPSC can weigh as much as 8.5 tonnes. Few cranes can carry such weight.

1. Secure a wire pendant to an accessible point on the davit
2. All materials must have sufficient strength
3. Boat falls should be retrieved at deck level and the nylon strop shackle to the linkage of the floating block

1. Lower the falls to the life boat
2. Attach the nylon strop to the lifting hook on the fore and aft of the life boat
3. Lift the boat off the water and attach the hanging pendant on top of the nylon strop on the lifting hook
4. This will transfer the weight of the nylon stop onto the hanging wire pendant

1. This can only be achieved if the hanging pendant is long enough to reach the lifting hook when the floating blocks are hard up at davit head
2. Once this is achieved the strop at the hook must be severed or the other end must be unshackled.

Prelaunch: remove all protective covers
Prelaunch: check for and remove any obstructions
Boat hanging on davit: embark and fasten seat belts
Boat hanging on davit: pull remote control wires to raise counterweight
Boat lowers by gravity
Boat in water: start engine
Boat in water: open release hook
Boat clears the offshore