The Importance of Inflatable Rescue Boats

The Importance of Inflatable Rescue Boats

Rescue boats have always been an integral part of marine safety missions and search and rescue operations. In case of any mishaps that happen at sea, rescue boats are the easiest option to provide aid to the people in distress.

Inflatable rescue boats have numerous other applications other than for just emergency rescues. They are also used as recreational boats, rafting and for fishing due to their efficiency and size. In this article, we see what exactly is a rescue boat, how are they operated, and why it is so important.

What is a rescue boat?

A rescue boat is a vessel designed to assist during rescue operations and to rescue sailors in distress during an emergency. These boats are designed for the sole purpose of rescuing people and hence are decked with features that will enable it to do the same. Rescue boats consist of inflatable boats and lifeboats.

The inflatable rescue boats are widely used due to their efficiency and light weight. They can be launched from shore regardless of the weather and can carry all the required equipment to assist the rescue of people.

Inflatable rescue boats can be deployed more quickly than regular lifeboats, thus ensuring that the lives of people in peril are saved without wasting precious time. They also have enhanced stability which gives them a faster speed and manoeuvrability. Rescue boats are often used as alternatives for fishing, rafting and also during military operations sometimes.

Compared to the basic rescue boats that used to run a few years ago, there have been a number of modifications and updates in the designs of rescue boats. The have been made longer to hold more people and equipment, the hull structure and the base has also been changed to increase the stability of these boats on water, enhanced motors and engines have been added to increase the speed of the rescue boats.

Guidelines for operating a rescue boat

For the smooth and efficient working of a rescue mission, the operations aboard the rescue boat must be carried out immaculately. For this reason, there is a set of guidelines that the crew must adhere to. These include:

  • Rescue boat objective

The objective of rescue boats and the crew is to prioritise the rescue and save sailors as opposed to the machines or other things from the wreck.

  • Prioritising rescues

When multiple instances of capsizing occur, the crew must prioritize which boat is to be investigated first.

  • Assessing and rescuing the sailors

The crew must do a thorough job of assessing the sailors’ condition verbally or visually. The rescue boat engine must be turned off when in close proximity to the distressed. The rescued must be given immediate medical assistance.

  • Righting a capsized sailboat

The boat must be pulled out in such a way that the mast is not bent. It is important to be slow with the process or it can damage the boat.

  • Towing

It can prove to be a great risk, especially if the boat that is being towed is heavier than the rescue boat. Proper procedures must be followed to ensure that the boat is towed safely.

Need of rescue boats

There has been an increase in the popularity of boating and other water related sports. With the increase in the number of people opting for water related activities, there has been a substantial increase in the accidents. Rescue boats at sea can be launched from any shore with minimum assistance and are an efficient way to carry out rescue operations.

Rescue boats are good at carrying heavy loads and are highly durable irrespective of the weather. The limited hull structure and base provides stability to the rescue boats on water even during bad weather. Rescue boats are also equipped with all the basic first aid equipment that would be required to aid distressed sailors. Rescue boats thus provide a quicker and more efficient option for help at sea.

However, rescue boat usage faces a lot of challenges, endangering precious lives. Here we discuss some of these.

Challenges faced by rescue boats and rescue boat manufacturers

Most of the challenges faced by rescue boats and their manufacturers are centred around the process of launching of rescue boats and the lowering of equipment. The crane used to pull up a rescue boat during recovery often gets jammed due to accumulation of grease or due to change in arrangement by the crew. This abrupt halt can cause equipment damage and also loss of life during unfavourable weather conditions.

Numerous times, it has been observed that the connection wires are insufficient in length and thus cannot be used to successfully operate and handle the machinery on boats. Rescue boats also sometimes cannot be launched due to faulty and outdated hydraulic valves and other machinery.

Thus, it is important to correctly equip the boat with the required materials, so as to ensure that it can be of help in cases of emergencies. The rescue crew must also conduct regular inspections and carry out the required modifications of the boat at regular intervals.

In addition, rescue boats have to be well-equipped with life-safety equipment to ensure smooth operation. Here are the details, based on SOLAS requirements.

Equipment for rescue boats, as per SOLAS

SOLAS requires every rescue vessel to carry a set of equipment that will be of assistance during an emergency. The equipment includes:

  • Paddles and Oars

Defect-free oars and paddles made from timber of good quality are preferable. The diameter and sizes must also adhere to the recommended size requirements.

  • Knives and Hatchets

Knives and hatchets must be handy, sharp and have good cutting edges. They must be attached to the lanyard to be readily available in times of emergencies. Knives should be positioned close to openings and should have a safety blade to eliminate the risk of accidental stabbing.

  • Crutches

Crutches must be made of galvanised iron and should be attached to the boat by a chain secured at the neck of each crutch. If any crutch is damaged or broken, the entire thing must be replaced with the spare crutches that are to be carried on a rescue boat at all times.

  • Boat hooks

Hooks of good quality and durability must be carried on a rescue boat. The metal fittings should be galvanised and at least two boat hooks and a few spares must be mandatorily carried aboard every boat.

  • Compass

Operational compasses are a must. They can be used to map routes in case the vessel has been stranded.

  • Lights

Lights of an approved type must be available aplenty. Internal and external lights, with a proper power backup can be of huge help in cases of blackouts and power outages. Electric torches and other such portable waterproof equipment must be available with spare batteries.

  • Distress Signals

Distress signals of an approved type especially pyrotechnic distress signals must be stocked in abundantly aboard a ship. The pyrotechnics must be stowed away together in a water tight container in places that are easily accessible in case of emergency.

  • First Aid Kit:

These are first aid kits that contain all the necessary equipment for emergencies. The crew must ensure that all the equipment in the first aid kit are stocked properly.

  • Portable Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguishing appliances, such as portable fire extinguishers must be provided in accordance with the safety regulations. They must be kept on easily accessible spots on the vessel and must be sealed and regularly checked.


The importance of rescue boats can be deduced from their integral role in search and rescue operations. It is imperative that efficient rescue boats of good quality are carried by all ships, to be used in times of emergencies.

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