Lifeboat Testing

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The testing of a lifeboat involves various phases. This includes the general and the pre-approval phases.

  • General

In this phase of testing, the Coast Guard Marine Inspectors are posted at different places in the factor where the lifeboats and its components are built. The lifeboats are inspected at every stage during the building process. This is to ensure that the boats are built as per the approved plan and also the materials used in the building process and the workmanship is off very high quality. The inspectors also collect samples of the materials that are used to build the boat if there is a necessity. The collected samples are tested to check its suitability and capability.

  • Pre-approval test

Prior to approving the design for any lifeboat, certain test will be conducted by the marine inspector.

  • Strength test

During this test, the lifeboat is suspended using the chain from the bow and the stem or using the releasing gear. The length, beam and the depth are then measured. Once measured, the weights are then added to the boat. This weight is equivalent to the food, water, equipments that are available in the lifeboat in real time. Additional weights are then included to ensure the weight when the lifeboat is poised is increased by 25 percent of the fully loaded lifeboat. The measurements are then repeated. The lifeboat is emptied and another set of measurements are taken. This should not develop any cracks or show any other signs of excessive stress.

  • Flooding test

During this test, the lifeboat is flooded when open to the sea to find out the amount of buoyancy required for the lifeboat along with its releasing gear to stay on the surface of the water. This does not include the equipment, fuel and water tanks, or provision lockers. If these equipments cannot be removed from the lifeboat during the test, they should be flooded or filled to the final waterline. Some lifeboats have stowage sections which are helpful to store containers that contain drinking water. During flooding testing, the stowage should be sealed water tight. Since the lifeboat is void of motors, shafts, propellers and other components during the testing stage, a counter weight should be placed in the lifeboat to compensate these components.

  • Seating Capacity Test

During this test, the lifeboat is fully loaded with all the equipments and the persons are made to sit as per the seating plan. Each person should wear an approved life jacket and enough room to row the boat without interference should be demonstrated.

  • Freeboard Test

Freeboards are measured to the low point of the sheer with the lifeboat in a light condition (without any equipment or any persons on board) and in a fully loaded condition.

  • Stability test

The stability test is performed once the seating capacity test is completed. During the stability test, exactly half the number of persons is moved to one side of the lifeboat and the other half are moved out of the boat. The freeboard to the low point of the sheer is measured, which should not be less than 10% of the depth of the lifeboat.

Motor-propelled lifeboats should pass the test as required by the oar-propelled lifeboats. In conjunction, speed tests over a measured course and fuel consumption tests on a time basis are carried out which determine that the fully loaded motor-propelled lifeboats can maintain a speed of 6 knots and that the fuel tanks can carry sufficient fuel for at least 24 hours at a speed of 6 knots. A 4-hour endurance trial is conducted with the fully loaded lifeboat to ensure there is no overheating, no undue vibration, or any other condition which would warrant that the lifeboat cannot maintain the speed (6 knots) for 24 hours. The time consumed in conducting the speed and fuel consumption tests may be counted towards the 4-hour endurance test. It is demonstrated that all engines installed in motor lifeboats can be started by the cranking system and that the system does not require any warming up period.

Hand-propelled lifeboats are subjected to the same tests as required for an oar-propelled lifeboat. In addition, a test is made to ensure that the lifeboat can be satisfactorily maneuvered with the hand-propelling gear. A speed of at least three knots should be achieved in both light and load condition over a measured course of not less than 1,000 feet.


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