In recent years there have been a number of accidents caused by the failure of on-load release hooks during lifeboat drills, which have resulted in seafarers being seriously injured and even killed. IMO has therefore been developing measures to prevent accidents with lifeboats.
The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) has been following the IMO discussions through the Industry Lifeboat Group (ILG), which is made up of a wide range of shipping industry organisations and is co-ordinated by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and IMCA has now published an information note (IMCA M 20/11) on the subject, which is available to members on the ‘members-only’ website.
The information note explains that earlier in 2011, after lengthy deliberations, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted new design requirements for on-load release hooks for lifeboats. On-load release mechanisms must be evaluated against the new requirements by 1 July 2013, and any non-compliant hooks must be replaced no later than the first scheduled dry docking of the ship after 1 July 2014 but, in any case, not later than 1 July 2019.
The requirements will apply to new and existing on-load release hook designs and will necessitate the assessment and possible replacement of large numbers of lifeboat hooks. There could therefore be significant cost and scheduling implications, and vessel operators should start discussing the new requirements with hook manufacturers and flag state representatives as soon as possible.
“The new requirements are an important step forward, but there are still a number of outstanding issues,” explains IMCA’s Chief Executive, Hugh Williams. “Shipping industry organisations, including IMCA, have therefore developed supplementary guidance on the selection of replacement hooks, which recommends considering hook designs that incorporate a permanent secondary safety system, such as a locking pin. In addition, IMO has agreed to continue to keep lifeboat safety issues on its agenda, so members should anticipate further developments on this issue in due course.”
Information note IMCA M 20/11 looks at the background to the issue; at the new IMO requirements; at industry guidance – with hyperlinks to relevant documents; and at further IMO work explaining that members should be aware that there are likely to be further developments on this important issue.