[seadog] Free fall Lifeboat Opps!

  • From: Tom Blanchard <srm_tom@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: SEADOG <seadog@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 12 Jun 2002 17:19:37 -0700 (PDT)

Accidental Release of Free Fall Lifeboat
Australian Official Report in MARS 94

An investigation was carried out by the Australian Marine Incident 
Investigation Unit into the accidental release of a Free Fall lifeboat. MIIU 
reports can be obtained from: Inspector of Marine Accidents, MIIU, GPO BOX 967, 
Civic Square, Canberra, ACT 2608 Tel 02 6274 7324, Fax 026274 6699 email 
miiu@xxxxxxxxxxx Web Site www.miiu.gov.auSynopsis
A Surveyor of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority boarded the vessel to 
conduct a Port State Control inspection. After checking and finding the ship's 
certificates and the officers qualifications in order, the Surveyor went about 
the ship, checking items of equipment. The vessel was equipped with a single, 
fully enclosed, free-fall lifeboat, situated on an inclined launching ramp at 
the stern of the vessel and held in place by hydraulically operated release 
gear. He was accompanied by the 2nd Mate, the 3rd Engineer Officer and the 
Electrical Engineer Officer (E.O.). At approximately 0945, the Surveyor arrived 
at the free-fall lifeboat and requested that the engine be started and the 
propeller turned both ahead and astern. The 3rd Engineer boarded the lifeboat 
and, standing in the centreline passageway, adjacent to the coxswain's seat, 
started and operated the engine to the Surveyor's satisfaction. He then stopped 
the engine. The Surveyor, standing on the boarding platform with the E.O. and 
the 2nd Mate, then requested that the rudder be operated to port and to 
starboard, pointing first at the rudder, then to port and finally to starboard 
as he did so. From his position on the boarding platform, the Surveyor could 
observe both the 3rd Engineer and the rudder.

On receiving the request to move the rudder to port and starboard, the 3rd 
Engineer immediately tried to turn a radially spoked wheel, adjacent to the 
coxswain's seat and aligned fore and aft. The wheel did not move, neither did 
the rudder, so the Surveyor repeated his request for the rudder to be moved and 
both the 2nd Mate and Electrical Engineer spoke to the 3rd Engineer in Russian. 
The 3rd Engineer appeared to look around the inside of the lifeboat, then 
restarted the engine and again went to turn the spoked wheel. This time the 
wheel turned, but instead of the rudder turning, the lifeboat moved down the 
ramp and launched over the stern. After the lifeboat hit the water, the 3rd 
Engineer was seen lying on the deck inside the boat, but then the embarkation 
door closed, concealing him from the sight of those on the vessel. Feeling 
certain that the 3rd Engineer had been injured and noting a lack of action by a 
number of crew members gathering at the poop, the Surveyor took charge of the 
situation and instructed the 2nd Mate to launch the rescue boat. He then 
hurried down to the wharf, where he requested a truck driver to telephone for 
an ambulance. He then proceeded along the wharf, aft of the vessel and, 
believing the 3rd Engineer to be in need of immediate first aid, prepared to 
enter the water to swim out to the lifeboat, which was drifting away on the 
tide. The truck driver, having telephoned for an ambulance on his mobile 
telephone, rather than using the public telephone on the wharf, joined the 
surveyor and, without bidding, also prepared to swim out to the lifeboat. 
However, before they had time to enter the water, they were hailed from the 
poop of the vessel and informed that the rescue boat was about to be launched.

The rescue boat, manned by the Mate, the E.O. and a welder, caught up with the 
lifeboat midway between the wharf and the tug berth, about 150 m from the 
vessel. The E.O. and the welder boarded the lifeboat, the welder tending to the 
3rd Engineer while the E.O. brought the lifeboat back to the wharf under its 
own power. Two ambulances arrived on the wharf and as soon as the lifeboat 
arrived alongside, ambulance personnel boarded to examine the 3rd Engineer. 
Initial examination showed the 3rd Engineer to have mild concussion and 
superficial lacerations to his scalp; he also complained of pain in the lumbar 
region of his back.
These conclusions identify the factors contributing to the incident and should 
not be taken as apportioning either blame or liability.

The main contributing factors are considered to be:

   The 3rd Engineer's lack of knowledge about the free-fall lifeboat controls. 
   The 2nd Mate's and Electrical Engineer Officer's lack of knowledge about the 
free-fall lifeboat controls. 
   The training regimen on board, in that it had not ensured that the three 
officers were fully conversant with the free-fall lifeboat controls. 
   The labelling and instructions for the lifeboat release gear, although 
clear, were not in the language of the crew.

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