A member has reported an incident in which a lifeboat was inadvertently lowered to sea. The incident occurred during an unrelated lifting operation to move a steel plate. This was taking place during high winds, and one of the tag lines being used caught on the port lifeboat release wire, releasing the gravity brake and causing the boat to be lowered to sea. The lifeboat did not disconnect from the falls and was winched back up to the davits without damage. There were no injuries to personnel.
Investigation revealed the following:
- The hazard created by the high wind was not fully recognised, and the opportunity to call a time out was not taken. The potential to snag the lifeboat release wire had not been recognised during the risk assessment;
- Although the taglines in use were of the tangle free type, the textile covering of the upper body of the line had become loose and retracted causing a snagging point to occur. This caught the release line and deactivated the brake;
- When the brake drum was opened for inspection, a large amount of oil residue was found on the brake lining, having seeped past the seals from the adjacent oil sump. The oil sump was overfilled beyond the manufacturers’ recommendations. The oil on the brake linings reduced the efficiency of the brake to reset when the counterweight was reapplied.
The following actions were taken following the incident:
- Deeper consideration of all conditions during risk assessment. For example, how did the controls to manage the steel plate introduce other hazards in this event?
- Inspection of tag lines to ensure they were fit for purpose, and holding of spares onboard;
- Review of lifeboat maintenance particularly with regard to the gravity brake;
- Checking oil levels were correct and that personnel understood the use of level plugs.
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