In the last 12 months there have been three important developments in the lifeboat sector; but has the industry gone far enough to improve all-round safety?
From 1 January 2020 new rules regarding the maintenance, examination, operational testing, overhaul and repair of lifeboats and rescue boats will come into force. The new requirements are described in Resolution MSC.402(96) and provide regular inspections of:
The inspections are to be conducted on a weekly, monthly, annual and five-year basis. The weekly and monthly inspections are to be conducted by authorised service providers, or by shipboard personnel under the direction of a senior ship’s officer, in accordance with the maintenance manual(s).The annual inspection is a thorough examination and operational test conducted by certified personnel of either the manufacturer or an authorised service provider. The service provider may be the ship operator, provided it is authorised.
The five-yearly examination is a thorough overhaul and includes overload operational tests; repairs should be conducted by certified personnel of either the manufacturer or an authorised service provider in the presence of a class surveyor.
The key phrase in the documentation is “authorised service providers”. This does not have to be a representative of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). The authorised service provider can be an entity authorised by the flag administration. In the case of the short-term inspections, the authorised service provider can be a member of the crew who is being directed by a senior officer of the ship.
The annual inspection must be undertaken by a service provider, which could be the OEM, another party, or the ship operator, provided they are authorised by the flag administration.
At the five-year level, only the OEM or a third party may be the flag administration-authorised service provider.
The above amendments apply to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, as amended, containing amendments to SOLAS III/3 and III/20 and in some ways the best practice of many first-class tanker operators. The main change as far as OEM are concerned is that there is no hard link remaining between the OEM and the inspection and maintenance.
The implication for the tanker industry is that an operator will be free to appoint one entity to oversee the maintenance, examination, operational testing, overhaul and repair of lifeboats and rescue boats from a wide range of manufacturers. This should lead to a considerable saving in time and effort in co-ordinating different OEMs to inspect and service lifeboats across a fleet.
Resolution MSC.402(96) also opens the market to those providers that can offer such a service. Survitec global technical sales manager Robert Wallace noted that most vessels have a range of life-saving equipment from different manufacturers. This means that procuring a lifeboat inspection can involve liaison with a multitude of manufacturers demanding different services on the davit, the hooks and the boat itself. Furthermore, the lifeboats in the fleet might have a range of engines. He argues that the new rule, that allows a fleet safety manager to pick a single multi-brand provider, is an added benefit, as they can inspect a number of brands and lifeboat types. Plus they are uniquely positioned to implement best practice from across the board, rather than just what one manufacturer dictates.
Commonality and integration
According to Viking’s senior vice president of global sales, Benny Carlsen, this was also part of the thinking behind the takeover of Norwegian lifeboat manufacturer Norsafe by Viking Life Saving Equipment: “There is so much commonality between the companies, being Scandinavian-based and family-owned with similar cultural and operational outlooks, which has meant that integrating Norsafe into the Viking group has proved a relatively smooth exercise.”
Mr Carlsen emphases that Norsafe brings its lifeboat building expertise, whereas Viking is not known as a lifeboat builder but has a deeper corporate reach. Owners and operators dealing with the new entity will find greater corporate support. It will also give Viking products access to other markets more familiar to Norsafe.
In early 2019, the USCG reported it had airlifted two engineers from a chemical carrier off the coast of Virginia who were inspecting an enclosed lifeboat when it inadvertently released. Both men were thrown into the sea, one sustaining a broken leg. It is suspected that a lifeboat hook inadvertently released (a full investigation is underway).
IMO is tackling the dangerous issue of on-load release hooks. SOLAS regulation III/1.5, requires that for all ships of 500 gt and above, a lifeboat release and retrieval system not complying with paragraphs 22.214.171.124.4 to 126.96.36.199.6 of the LSA Code, as amended by resolution MSC.320(89), be replaced or modified not later than the next scheduled dry-docking after 1 July 2014, but not later than 1 July 2019.
Those hooks that do not comply with the new SOLAS-approved standard (MSC 320 and 321 (89) have to be replaced at the first scheduled dry docking after 1 July 2014, but no later than 1 July 2019.
To this end, Survitec has launched its Lifeboat Release and Retrieval Systems’ (LRRS) replacement hook series. Survitec global technical sales manager Robert Wallace noted one of the biggest contributing factors to accidents was that the weight of the lifeboat could be transmitted to the opening mechanism in the previous hook designs, which could enable the mechanism to turn. “Now the weight of the lifeboat cannot be put on the turning mechanism – that has taken away one of the biggest problems,” he explains.
Survitec’s regulatory and compliance manager, Paul Watkins noted: “There is no reason to suggest this deadline will be extended; although, we are aware that some flag states are already being contacted by vessel owners, looking to extend the period. These dispensation requests are due to stated, future plans to scrap the vessel shortly after the deadline, or a delayed scheduled dry docking shortly after the 1 July 2019.”
This is allowed within the confines of the circular. “Controversially, we may see vessels looking to re-flag to registers which will give them this flexibility,” he adds.
Remote control search and rescue
The takeover of Norsafe by Viking has not halted the new entity’s release of equipment, the latest of which includes an unmanned search and rescue vehicle developed by Norsafe in conjunction with Kongsberg. The Sounder USV system is a multipurpose platform designed to work across different market segments, including search and rescue, ocean survey and fishery duties.
Kongsberg Maritime says the Sounder USV has been configured from the keel upwards as a new platform to deliver hydroacoustic data quality, efficiency and productivity. Operation of the USV is managed by Kongsberg’s K-Mate autonomous surface vehicle control system. The Sounder USV system is compatible with launch and recovery systems for operation from ship or shore. With an endurance of up to 20 days at 4 knots it is being targeted at the military as well as commercial applications.