As with any piece of machinery, lifeboat maintenance is very important. It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of vessels that sink annually. Unfortunately, not all of these maritime disasters can be prevented, and in that case, you have to be prepared for the worst. Every modern vessel is now equipped with some form of lifeboat. In the event of an emergency these lifeboats can save lives, but if you do not keep your lifeboat maintained, it cannot help you if disaster is to strike. Nobody wants to find out that there are broken parts on their emergency equipment in the heat of the moment. That kind of surprise could be fatal.
The Basics of Lifeboat Maintenance
The first thing to think about when it comes to lifeboat maintenance is the regulations set out by the lifeboat manufacturer. Each company creates their lifeboats a little differently, and so it is important to make sure that all crew members are up-to-date on the manuals and rules for maintenance that are set out by the company that made the lifeboats. A full set of manuals and instructions from the lifeboat company should be available on board at all time.
Different captains have different rules, but there are some ships at sea that require the crew to inspect their lifeboats monthly, and even weekly for ships that are out at sea more often. Inspecting the lifeboats on a regular basis is the first step to proper maintenance. If something is wrong with one of your lifeboats, you want to find out as soon as possible. Having the crew check the lifeboats weekly will add to their familiarity with them as well, making them more efficient if they ever need to use them.
These service and maintenance manuals from the manufacturer serve as a guide or a checklist, so that the crew knows what to do during maintenance. Every lifeboat has a few specific parts that need to be looked at to ensure that they are still working properly, and the manuals tell you what they are.
Before the inspection, care should be taken to accurately attach the hanging off pendants to isolate the on-load mechanism. Boats should be suspended of pendants only during inspection.
With these weekly inspections, it is easier to pinpoint problems and repair things. Beyond the repairs, there are simpler things that might need attention. Certain pieces of the lifeboat might weaken over time, and scheduling maintenance ensures that they never weaken to the point of malfunction. Again, it is important to read through the user manuals for your lifeboats so that you know what parts need the most attention. These manuals also give you information on shelf life of the lifeboats, which tells you when to expect the need for replacement of certain pieces.
Some release mechanisms are very critical as they have a large number of critical components, which require a high degree of maintenance. Such components are too difficult for the crew members to maintain it onboard. These highly technical components require specialist to perform the maintenance.
Maintaining the Release Gear
The setting and maintenance of release gear are critical operations with regard to maintaining the safe operation of the lifeboat and the safety of personnel in the lifeboat. All inspection and maintenance operations on this equipment should therefore be carried out with the utmost care. No maintenance or adjustment of the release gear should be undertaken while the hooks are under load.
The following should be examined for satisfactory condition and operation:
- Operation of devices for activation of release gear
- Excessive free play (tolerances)
- Hydrostatic interlock system, where fitted
- Cables for control and release
- Hook fastening
The Importance of Filing Maintenance Reports
Every part of the inspections should be reported and noted for future reference. That makes it easier in the future if someone needs to pinpoint the beginning of a problem, or how they might need to go about fixing it. All reports, for both inspections and maintenance, should be seen and signed by the captain, to ensure that any problems are dealt with. When it comes to formal annual inspections, those reports need to be signed by a representative of the lifeboat company as well. All reports for inspection and maintenance should be filed on board the ship, for easy future access.