29.06.2012 Location of lifejackets

From the website Safety4Sea

07 Jun 12

The old lifejacket dilemma
Lifoboat safety - safe ships

IMO's Maritime Safety Committee has concluded its 90th session, its delegates having worked their way through the usual fearsome agenda.

Not surprisingly, the discussions involving the reactions to the Costa Concordia incident have been those which have attracted most attention. In this matter the organisation is somewhat handicapped by the ongoing proceedings and inquiry taking place in Italy, with these themselves being delayed somewhat by the criminal proceedings against the vessel's master making matters rather more complex.

There are however a number of sensible interim measures which have been recommended in an MSC circular. For a start the seemingly endless arguments about whether lifejackets should be kept in cabins or located near the embarkation might have moved on a little with a recommendation that additional lifejackets should be readily accessible in public spaces, muster/assembly stations or in the lifeboats.

This may not have been an issue at the time of the Titanic's loss, but pretty well all last century arguments have raged as to the sanity of requiring passengers to be required to rush below to their cabins to retrieve their lifejackets before proceeding to their muster stations. Should the ship be sinking fast, or the accommodation becoming smoke-filled in the event of a fire, such a requirement would appear foolish in the extreme. Nevertheless passenger ship operators, when such a matter comes up, invariably point to the difficulties of storing large volumes of lifejackets in such a way to make them accessible to hundreds or ever thousands of people in extremis, without filling up public rooms or boarding stations. Ever bigger ships, with more decks of passengers have merely exacerbated the problem.

Other sensible measures recommend that access to the bridge should be limited, when the ship is manoeuvring in restricted waters. It would be difficult to imagine that every thoughtful passenger ship operator has not already implemented such an obvious measure.

This writer has personal experience of observing an incident when a well-lubricated passenger, granted permission to be on the bridge when a ferry was leaving port, seized the combinator controls and nearly ran the ship into the breakwater. There is a lot to be said for common sense.