Lifeboats are one of those items you hope never to use. But should the need arise, those operating in the tanker sector can take comfort from developments in technology and safety management
As the tanker industry expands into new routes, some passages will inevitably fall under the heading of ‘polar voyages’. This is an exciting prospect for those involved, but it brings with it challenges in terms of safety and lifeboats.
These issues will fall under the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters or The Polar Code, as it is more familiarly known, which took effect on 1st January 2017.
Adopted by the IMO, this risk- and goal-based system will be mandatory for any tanker sailing planned in the polar region. A specific risk analysis must be undertaken to assess and mitigate potential risks and to demonstrate compliance with the code.
In readiness for the introduction of the code, Norsafe became the first Life Saving Appliance (LSA) supplier to have executed full scale tests and trials to understand and solve the issues surrounding the safe operation of LSA in polar conditions in a joint stakeholder Search and Rescue expedition (SAREX).
Using a standard Norsafe Miriam 8.5 lifeboat, the expedition simulated a full-scale escape, evacuation and rescue operation (to accommodate minimum five-day survival with the lifeboat as a habitat), in ice-infested waters 80 degrees north of the Barents Sea.
During the expedition, Norsafe conducted tests to address lifecycle issues with LSA equipment which may be exposed to polar conditions. This included a full-scale study to determine how to avoid the loss of warmth from a heated lifeboat in conditions of minus 30 degrees Celsius. Test studies were also carried out to determine the performance of sprinklers when used in icy conditions.
The SAREX expedition and Norsafe’s participation gave a unique insight into understanding the risks involved in this kind of operation and how best to mitigate them. It has also led to the company being selected as the supplier of LSA for the recently launched British Antarctic Survey Polar Research vessel Sir David Attenborough.
Sir Attenborough’s television documentary “Blue Planet 2” has probably done more to raise public awareness of the impact of pollution on the oceans than any effort by the environmental lobby, and every aspect of the tanker industry also needs to demonstrate its understanding of this matter..
Thus, it would be somewhat ironic if an environmentally-friendly LNG-powered vessel had diesel-engined lifeboats.
Electric lifeboat debut from Norsafe
Norsafe E-GES uses two electric motors and 25 kWh battery packs contained in waterproof cases with their own fire extinguishing systems
Norsafe has joined forces with DNV-GL and Norwegian Maritime Authority to develop its first battery-powered lifeboat to provide an environmentally ethical alternative to diesel propulsion.
Using the shell of its popular GES freefall model with all its diesel components removed, Norsafe has installed two 25 kWh battery packs contained in robust waterproof cases with their own fire extinguishing systems, electric motors with gearboxes, plus ventilation system with heat exchange.
Called the E-GES lifeboat, the significant long-term cost savings achieved through its maintenance-free design, remote monitoring capabilities, and CO2-free emissions, has proven especially popular with offshore and tanker operators.
An added advantage for offshore and oil tanker operators is that the E-GES performs the launch phase of an evacuation at a higher sprint speed than diesel propulsion, thereby transporting passengers more quickly and safely away from the platform or tanker in the case of an emergency.
Other benefits include increased passenger comfort, due to the absence of exhaust fumes, heat, noise and vibration caused by diesel engines, and no parts replacement requirements during the design life of the craft (normally 25 years).
Built in compliance with DNV-OS-E406, full testing has been successfully carried out, involving both model and full-scale prototypes.
“Developing this ground-breaking electric freefall lifeboat has been a great team effort and I would like to congratulate our designers, engineers and partners in turning this concept into reality,” said Norsafe chief executive Dag Songedal.
“The benefits to our customers regarding reduced maintenance costs, no C02 emissions and faster first-phase evacuation times are positive incentives to encourage clients to make the switch from diesel to electric propulsion.”
An official launch of the E-GES electric freefall solution will take place in Norway later in 2018.
Testing lifeboats without crew inside
The in-situ testing of lifeboats is fraught with danger. The UK P&I Club, along with other bodies, has examined lifeboat testing incidents and has made the following recommendations.
The remedy for most issues concerning lifeboats is the continuous training of staff and sufficient risk assessment procedures. The most effective training for seafarers involves them understanding why something is done in a certain way, to better understand the procedures, not just remember them. This understanding should give crew members more confidence in the systems.
Training should specifically address the launching of lifeboats and the correct maintenance and handling procedures, to enable seafarers to safely use and maintain the equipment under all conditions.
Drills must be reliable and safe, with minimum risk to those participating. The IMO amended SOLAS in 2006 and 2008 to address conditions under which lifeboat drills are conducted, introducing changes to maintenance and inspection requirements, and drills without requiring crew members to be onboard the vessel.
Drills can be conducted in situ, with the required weight and mass to simulate crew inside the lifeboat, by using high-strength textile bags such as those produced by Structure-flex.
Structure-flex lifeboat bags provide a simple and accurate way to proofload test lifeboats in situ. They are used to provide an evenly distributed load and are easy to install and use. These bags can be incorporated in a system employing existing manifolds, pumps and flowmeters. The bags are manufactured from a PVC coated 3x3 weave polyester material. They include an inlet/outlet valve, overpressure relief valve and handling straps.
Taking part in a lifeboat test is just one element where safety can be compromised. Another involves the recovery of the lifeboat after the test. Manufacturers have developed systems to move away from the traditional, but accident-prone hook.
Viking’s Drop-in-Ball hook system has been approved by DNV GL for all sizes of lifeboats, in single and double mounting systems. Originally developed by Nadiro of Denmark, the system consists of a hip joint-type locking system. This allows a one-handed re-connection to the hook.
Viking’s Drop-in-Ball system allows berthing with one hand
Nadiro’s range comprises three main lifeboat release and retrieval (LRRL) systems. The DIB 32 product caters for smaller lifeboats; one step up, Nadiro’s DIB 75 has been approved by DNV GL for medium-sized crafts, while for larger lifeboats, the DIB 125 is now approved by DNV GL and USCG-approved.
“We can now perform servicing for customers, for example in the offshore sector, or roro ferries, with larger lifeboats than is typical of the cargo market, where our success was built,” said Viking Nadiro director Henrik Helsinghof. “We have made a significant difference to the time it takes to provide a complete, ready-to-go installation, or to conduct component exchanges during servicing,” he added.
Full service safety solution from Survitec
Safety solutions provider Survitec has launched a full service concept called SOLAS 360, aimed at improving overall safety levels by offering products and services in a holistic and consistent manner.
The global solution focusses on the customer’s total safety needs and long-term safety management, resulting in a simplification of their overall safety operation.
SOLAS 360 – so named as it covers the entire safety elements of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) chapters – includes lifeboats, liferafts, personal lifesaving appliances, first aid and medical equipment, emergency communication devices, as well as fire detection, protection and extinction systems
“Customers can effectively outsource all their safety and compliance needs to us and know that everything will be taken care of, from industry-leading equipment, to regular maintenance and servicing,” said Survitec sales director of continental Europe Stavros Fountas.
SOLAS 360 is also backed by an online customer portal that gives customers instant access to each vessel’s compliancy status and safety certificates, and Survitec can visit vessels and create a detailed plan for all service and replacement needs after an initial onboard inspection.
The future of lifesaving and lifeboats?
In January 2018, the first ever rescue by drone took place on Lennox Head beach in New South Wales. The Little Ripper rescue drone was undergoing trials nearby when a member of the public reported two teenagers in trouble in a rip tide. The Little Ripper flew out to the location and dropped a floatation device, giving two boys time to recover. It is not hard to imagine a tanker equipped with such technology to help rescue a crew member overboard.