Skip to content

Accidental release of free-fall lifeboat

What happened

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has published safety investigation report M20P0353 relating to the accidental release of a free-fall lifeboat from a bulk carrier. The incident occurred in December 2020. The crew were carrying out a free‑fall lifeboat drill while the vessel was at anchor, when the wire rope slings holding the lifeboat failed and the boat fell approximately 14m to the water. There were two crew members in the lifeboat at the time. Both were seriously injured and were transferred to hospital. The forward starboard side of the lifeboat’s hull was damaged. There was no pollution.

What went wrong

  • Findings as to causes and contributing factors – conditions, acts or safety deficiencies that were found to have caused or contributed to this occurrence;
    • The crimp sleeves on the lifeboat slings had weakened over time as a result of intergranular stress-corrosion cracking;
    • The manner in which the slings were attached to the hooks caused the load to concentrate on the aft starboard sling. This, in combination with the weakened crimp sleeves, caused the sequential failure of the slings and the aft port sling bracket;
    • The crew had developed an informal practice that did not address the risk of standing unsecured in the lifeboat;
    • There was no additional restraining device in use to protect the crew in the boat from falling when the slings failed.
  • Findings as to risk – these are conditions, unsafe acts or safety deficiencies that were found not to be a factor in this occurrence but could have adverse consequences in future occurrences;
    • In the absence of any international guidance requiring free-fall lifeboat slings to be verified periodically, inspected before use, and marked with a safe working load, there is a risk that this critical equipment will be overlooked during inspections or its safe limits will be exceeded, leading to an accident.
    • If supervisors are required to take an active role during safety critical tasks such as lifeboat drills, their attention will be divided and they will be less able to attend to all aspects of the task, increasing the risk that safety critical items will not be identified in time to prevent an accident.

Members may wish to refer to:

Safety Event

Published: 26 July 2022
Download: IMCA SF 19/22

Relevant life-saving rules:
IMCA Safety Flashes
Submit a Report

IMCA Safety Flashes summarise key safety matters and incidents, allowing lessons to be more easily learnt for the benefit of all. The effectiveness of the IMCA Safety Flash system depends on Members sharing information and so avoiding repeat incidents. Please consider adding [email protected] to your internal distribution list for safety alerts or manually submitting information on incidents you consider may be relevant. All information is anonymised or sanitised, as appropriate.

IMCA’s store terms and conditions ( apply to all downloads from IMCA’s website, including this document.

IMCA makes every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the documents it publishes, but IMCA shall not be liable for any guidance and/or recommendation and/or statement herein contained. The information contained in this document does not fulfil or replace any individual’s or Member's legal, regulatory or other duties or obligations in respect of their operations. Individuals and Members remain solely responsible for the safe, lawful and proper conduct of their operations.