The impact of the new 2020 lifeboat rules on the passenger ship industry are examined
On 1 January 2020, new rules regarding the maintenance, examination, operational testing, overhaul and repair of lifeboats and rescue boats came 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 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.
For the weekly and monthly inspections, the authorised service provider can be a member of the crew who is being directed by a senior officer of the ship in accordance with the maintenance manuals.
The annual inspection is a thorough examination and operational test and 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.
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. 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 (SOLAS), 1974, as amended, containing amendments to SOLAS III/3 and III/20. The main change as far as OEMs are concerned is there is no hard link remaining between the OEM and inspection and maintenance.
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 will lead to considerable time savings, removing the need to co-ordinate different OEMs to inspect and service lifeboats across a fleet.
Viking Cruise & LifeCraft division vice president Niels Fraende tells Passenger Ship Technology the amendments are a positive step forward for the passenger ship industry. “I think it is a good thing as you may have a range of lifeboats in your fleet that come from different manufacturers. Until now, you couldn’t get one single service provider to do the service, making it difficult to plan, execute and monitor servicing at a uniformly high level of quality. The benefit of the new requirements for both OEMs and ship operators is that OEM-certified service providers will be trained and certified technicians possessing exactly the right competencies to perform the job. This would definitely give a higher level of safety and much more predictability in the way service is conducted.”
He points out another advantage is it makes it much easier for vessel owners and operators to make service frame agreements. “They will look at the number of lifeboats and know how and when they need servicing, which allows for much better systemising of service. It allows more predictability.”
He says the lifeboat industry can look to marine evacuation system manufacturers (MES) as an example of how the updated modifications will work. “MES suppliers have been under this regime for many years.”
Resolution MSC.402(96) also opens the market to providers offering such a service. Survitec global technical sales manager Robert Wallace notes that most vessels have life-saving equipment from different manufacturers. This means procuring a lifeboat inspection can involve liaising 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 says the new rule, allowing 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
Elsewhere, IMO has tackled 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 18.104.22.168.4 to 22.214.171.124.6 of the LSA Code, as amended by resolution MSC.320(89), be replaced or modified not later than the next scheduled drydocking after 1 July 2014, but not later than 1 July 2019.
This has without doubt strengthened safety across the global lifeboat fleet.
Mr Fraende says “I am confident this process has now finished and there is close to full compliance across the global passenger vessel fleet. The hooks have been addressed to the extent that they were never addressed before. There is now a fault prevention mechanism, and this is definitely a technical precaution leading to a higher level of safety.”
Survitec was also involved within the lifeboat hook replacement sector with its Lifeboat Release and Retrieval Systems’ (LRRS) replacement hook series. Mr Wallace notes one of the biggest contributing factors to accidents was 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.
Navim Group is currently developing a range of davits for high-capacity life and tender boats, with what it calls the “on the go” Panama-passage transformation feature. Navim Group structural department design senior engineer Slavisa Skipina explains “They will allow ship designers to maximise the vessel’s beam for the latest Panama requirements, without compromising on the passenger promenade width and aesthetics in the davits area.”
He adds “We are also dedicated to making our existing davit models even more safe and maintenance-friendly. Our programme of continuous assessment of the safety and reliability track record of all our systems and individual key components, carried out in collaboration with our customers and OEM technicians, transforms into design improvements on each new release of our davits, with the final goal of increasing the overall safety and user-friendliness of our products.”
Mr Skipina gives an example. “Based on feedback from our clients and technicians, we are currently redesigning hydraulic equipment components, aimed at decreasing the maintenance burden on the ship crew and further improving the acoustic and vibrational comfort level in the passenger areas adjacent to the technical rooms and passages.”
The company is also redesigning the key components of the falls assemblies to increase their lifespan, safety and service readiness. “It is a broad process which includes enhanced quality control procedures and measures, and encompasses the lifespan of the falls from the drawing board, through the workshop and to delivery stage,” Mr Skipina says.
He points out some trends within the cruise industry. “Having safety as a priority, the shipowners tend to be involved in the choice and design of LSA for their ships. The Navim Group is open to this, and this attention to our clients’ needs pays back positively in terms of customer retention and our good reputation in the industry.”
Navim Group is also witnessing an increase of refit and lengthening jobs on existing ships, aimed at increasing passenger capacity and modernising interiors and onboard services. Mr Skipina says on these occasions, existing life and tender boats and launching appliances are replaced with new and more capacious models, with new launching stations often added.
He says “The refit jobs have proven to be very resource demanding, because they arrive at short notice and require fast execution. They also require outstanding experience in evaluating existing technical spaces and systems on board, a vision of what intervention would be the most effective and advisable, and tight scheduling of the work sequence. It takes clockwork-precise teamwork between our managerial and technical departments, the shipyard and the shipowner to get the job done well and delivered on schedule. If on newbuilds the design work walks at a fast and steady pace, on refit jobs it runs at full speed.
“The Navim Group has already performed a number of successful refits worldwide, which have allowed us to build a solid know-how and hands-on experience in managing and executing these jobs.”
LifeCraft moves forward
Viking Life-Saving Equipment is moving forward with its hybrid LifeCraft. The latest flag approval came from the Bahamas in January.
Mr Fraende says “the Bahamas acceptance is the latest breaking news, from one of the major global flags for cruise vessels.” The LifeCraft also has Danish Maritime Authority approval.
Its hybrid LifeCraft evacuation system consists of four survival craft units, each with a capacity of 203 people. These units are stored and launched using a chute-based arrangement which can be placed either on deck or built into the ships’ side. Development work on the Viking LifeCraft started in 2009, aiming to combine the advantages of modern lifeboats, such as self-propulsion, with the features and advantages of liferafts.
The newly approved and award-winning system is sparking interest from both cruise and ferry operators. Mr Fraende comments “I believe quite a few operators see it as something they would like to be a first-mover on, and we believe it will become the trend in the near future. We are addressing the cruise market and even the ferry market. It will become a trend as it vastly improves safety and evacuation efficiency on board and there is a much safer training environment in the daily operations of the crew, too.”