Life Saving Appliances


Safety at sea is a universal responsibility and necessity, of both – the ship and at a personal level. We have previously seen what are the life-saving appliances that can be used at sea.

Standard life-saving equipment on any vessel is divided into two main groups: personal life-saving appliances and survival craft.  Vessels also carry rescue boats but due to limited purposes, they render a different purpose altogether. 

In this blog, we shall look into the first group – Personal life-saving appliances. Broadly these include life-jackets, immersion or survival suits, thermal protective aids and life-buoys.

This article covers three aspects of safety – protection against drowning, fires, and navigational error. The common thread amongst all this equipment is that these are primarily tools to be used in case of emergencies, as opposed to our previous article, where we talked about the safety equipment necessary for everyday use on deck as well.

So here’s a glance at 11 personal safety devices that are required on ships to safeguard mariners, adventurists or even individuals at sea.

1. Lifeboats 

Lifeboats are the most basic and mandated equipment on board.

They are further classified into free-fall boats, partially-covered lifeboats and totally-covered lifeboats. Abiding by the SOLAS convention, each vessel must have enough lifeboats to secure 1.5 times the number of people on board.

Totally covered lifeboat is used most commonly. They are watertight, with access through hatches that can be opened from both sides. The advantage is that they safeguard occupants from extreme temperatures while allowing people to navigate from within.

2. Davit Systems

Davit systems are used for hoisting, lifting, and storing lifeboats so that they stay secure at all times but can be easily removed when necessary. There are various types of davits, including slide-on davits, sling davits, winch-on davits, lift-up davits, etc. along with assorted accessories such as hoists, cranes, hooks, and more.

All boats and ships should have well-maintained davit systems, inspected regularly from time to time, to ensure that the lifeboat and liferaft stowage/release systems are operational at times of emergencies.

3. Rescue Boats

Rescue boats are used to rescue people from drowning, near the shore, or in the deep sea. Rescue boats are rigid, inflatable or hybrid structure with a minimum length of 3.8m. They can capacitate 6 people: 5 seated and 1 lying down. 

The design of rescue boats allows high power capacity and hence ensures a faster pace than other conventional boats. They are also equipped with all the material required to provide first-aid to the person in distress.

Technically, rescue boats are expected to have a consistent speed of up to 6 knots for 4 hours straight and be able to tow life rafts and lifeboats of a ship, even when filled to complete capacity.

4. Line-throwing devices

Line-throwing appliances are used to project a from the boat to the person overboard or from one boat to another and pull the object in distress to safety. It is propelled by an internal striker mechanism and a rocket and needs to be capable of projecting the line with reasonable accuracy. Per the SOLAS regulations, every ship has to carry at least 4 line-throwing devices at all times. 

5. GMDSS equipment

The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) is an internationally established set of safety procedures, types of equipment, and communication protocols used to increase safety and make it easier to rescue distressed ships, boats and aircraft.

We saw the use of some GMDSS in the previous article, such as pyrotechnics and distress signals. 

Adding to that list, some other handy tools are Automatic Identification Systems and Personal Locators that ensure personal safety. 

Their GPS-based functioning allows the devices to convey the precise location of the wearer to the control console, which helps locate the person that much more quickly.

6. Intelligent fire alarm systems

Intelligent fire alarm systems include appliances such as fire detectors, smoke detectors, etc.

They are high-performing devices that allow for fast detection and management of fires. The mechanism uses a series of control and relay modules and probes and provides an advanced warning to protect lives. The low cabling cost is an added advantage.

7. Portable fire extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers are invaluable tools to protect seafarers in case a fire breaks out on the ocean. They are further classified based on the type of extinguishing material used in the fire extinguisher as well as the different causes of fires. As a result, it is imperative to choose the right type of fire extinguisher, as per the aforementioned conditions. 

8. Thermal Suits

Thermal suits are waterproof suits that protect the wearer from hypothermia from immersion in cold water, after abandoning a sinking or capsized vessel, especially in the open ocean. 

They are designed to have a conductivity of less than 0.25 W/mK and are used to conserve body heat in extreme temperatures up to -30 degrees Celsius.

Thermal protective aids generally cover the entire body of the wearer, except for the face hence providing maximum guarding against the external temperatures.

9. Gas detectors and spares

Gas detectors are highly useful in finding the presence of toxic and combustible gases on ships. These are especially popular in mining, oil and gas, chemical, and industrial sectors, where there is a high possibility of noxious leaks. These atmosphere testing instruments are placed at the entry to enclosed spaces and map the concentration levels of the various gases in the room.

10. Ladders

Ladders are a means of getting on or off ships safely, along the ships’ side whenever necessary. Various types of ladders can be used to get on or off a ship, depending on the urgency and location. Of all various types, pilot ladders are the most frequently used, though they have a high rate of associated injuries. Embarkation ladders are to be used when the ship/boat has to be abandoned during adverse conditions and need to be SOLAS compliant to ensure guarded safety. 

11. Jason’s Cradles

Jason’s cradles are strong nets woven from cloth webbing, used to rescue a person in distress and aid him overboard. They are available in different formats such as – standard units, scramble nets, stretcher units, etc. 

These appliances are easily grabbable and can be used to tow the person in the water towards the boat. They are especially useful in case the person has suffered an injury and cannot pull himself/herself using a rope or lifebuoy.

 Having gone through this second set of personal safety equipment, we have understood how each tool helps safeguard the safety of an individual at sea.

At SHM Shipcare, we as true safety suppliers, make sure that all products are tested according to relevant standards in the market. Abiding by SOLAS and LSA codes of safety appliances while also rendering products manufactured by our trusted OEMs; we provide safety at sea to all.

That being said, the constantly evolving safety standards call for updated equipment necessities on board. If you have any more to add to this list, let us know in the comments below…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

back to top