Life Saving Appliances


Safety at sea is a universal responsibility, both of the ship and at a personal level. We have previously seen what are the personal life-saving appliances that can be used at sea. In this article, we supplement the list with some additional equipment that can be used to ensure the further safety of seafarers.

We cover 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, without further ado, here are 11 more safety devices that are required on ships.

1. Lifeboats

There are three types of lifeboats that are generally mandatory on ships, free-fall boats, partially-covered lifeboats, and totally-covered lifeboats. Per the SOLAS convention, every ship is expected to have enough lifeboats to secure 1.5 times the number of people present on the ship.

Totally covered lifeboats are watertight, with access through hatches that can be opened from both sides. The advantage of totally-covered boats is that they safeguard occupants from extreme temperatures while allowing people to navigate from within.

2. Rescue boats

As the name suggests, rescue boats are used to rescue people from drowning, near the shore, or in the deep sea. Rescue boats can have a rigid, inflatable, or hybrid structure, with a minimum length of 3.8m and minimum capacity of 6 people, 5 seated and one lying down. They are designed to ensure faster speeds than conventional boats, with higher power capacity. In addition, they are equipped with all the material required to provide first-aid to the person in distress.

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

3. Davits

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 fully functional.

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. Ladders

Ladders are a means of getting on or off ships safely, along with the ships’ side. Various types of ladders can be used to embark on or disembark from a ship, depending on the the urgency and the location. Of these, 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.

6. Jason’s Cradles

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

7. Thermal Suits

Thermal suits are waterproof suits, designed to have a conductivity of less than 0.25 W/mK. They 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.

8. Portable fire extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers are invaluable tools to protect seafarers in case a fire breaks out on the ocean. All fire extinguishers are classified based on the type of extinguishing material used in the fire extinguisher. As a result, it is imperative to choose the right type of fire extinguisher, as per your requirements. 

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. Intelligent fire alarm systems

Intelligent systems, such as fire detectors, smoke detectors, etc., are high-performing devices that allow for fast detection and management of fires. They work using a series of control and relay modules and probes and are useful in providing advanced warning to protect lives. They also have the added advantage of low cabling cost.

11. GMDSS equipment

We have seen the use of some Global Maritime Distress and Safety Systems (GMDSS) in the previous article, such as pyrotechnics and distress signals. In addition, Automatic Identification Systems, and Personal Locators are handy tools for personal safety. These GPS-based devices convey the precise location of the wearer to the control console, which is helpful in locating the person that much more quickly.

This completes our second list of personal life-safety equipment that is used to protect the lives of seafarers. What are your thoughts about the list? Any other safety devices you would like to recommend? Drop a comment to let us know!

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