Current Lifeboat rules

Mar 3, 2001
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After much consideration I decided to post this here. Sorry if it should go elsewhere!

I've never been on a ship before so I'm not familiar with policy. I know that they have to carry lifeboats for all aboard. I'm just wondering if the scenario came where there would not be enough time to lower the lifeboats is there anyone who would get to go first? I can't see it being women and children first these days. (esp if women expect equal rights;) I know people are assigned to those boats. Would they possibly put children off in the boats first?

Even if Titanic had the 40 odd boats that Andrews had wanted, they didn't even have time for the last 2 collapsibles. In the end number of lifeboats wasn't much of an issue.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Amanda, I doubt that there's a written policy for that anywhere. I mean, how do you pen "Plant your head firmly between your legs and kiss your butt good-bye!" in such a way to make it look like you have a plan when you really don't?
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Amanda, you'll be surprised to learn that many passenger ships, don't carry "boats for all". This goes for many cruise ships, including QM2.

There has never been a law unambiguously requiring "boats for all", as it has always been recognised that this is not always practical. Remember that most modern cruise ships are shorter than Titanic. This makes carrying many boats difficult. Many take advantage of a rule allowing boats for at least 75% of those on board, plus life rafts capable of holding 50%. (SOLAS Regulation 20). Ships using this rule allot places in the lifeboats to passengers, regardless of age or sex, plus a few crewmembers to operate the boats. The rest of the crew take their chances in rafts.

I understand that it is normal today for passengers to assemble in mustering areas rather than going directly to the boats when trouble strikes. If it is necessary to abandon ship, they are sent to their alloted places in the boats. There are ample rules on crew training and passenger management in SOLAS regulations. All this is very well, but I have the nasty feeling that one day a cruise ship will take a container ship right amidships and all bets will be off.
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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There is no formal written policy regarding Amanda's question. There is however, a very formal policy on when and how boats and passengers are to be evcuated. This policy is the same, not matter what the time frame involved. Remeber that out of the 3000 passengers and crew on modern ship (that number being abstract) less then 120 are required to be trained seaman, seamen, not be confused with engineers, stewards etc.

There is a specific order in which things are done for that very reason. Why passengers from one section are allowed to disembark first and why others have to wait, is all spelled out and is all a calcualated risk. Order and safey (in that order) are what most officers are taught in today's fleets.

Why passengers from one area muster in a certain place and when that place is allowed to disembark is all predetermined, very rarely (and if you ask a company official) or is NEVER to be deviated from.

This isn't 1912, insurance is based off cacualated risk. The reason why the law provides for only 75% for hard boats is two fold.

1. No place to put them.

2. The odds of those boats being successfully launched to capacity in a real situation where the ship is foundering is less then 37%.

Titanic was built much more rigid then today's ships. For the most part the cruise ships on the oceans today are one compartment ships.
 
Aug 31, 2004
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I read that cruise ship are required to carry enough lifeboats for 25% more than maximum capacity, but I guess I was wrong.

>>Many take advantage of a rule allowing boats for at least 75% of those on board, plus life rafts capable of holding 50%<<

That is a frightening thought. Is that mentioned in the travel brochures?
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Matthew, you won't find it in the travel brochures, for obvious reasons. It's just one of the little secrets the cruise lines don't want you to know.

The US Coast Guard has an information sheet that mentions that ships may not have "boats for all", though it doesn't spell out the rule. That's tucked away in the very expensive SOLAS regulations, se Regulation 20.

Another little secret is that lifeboats may be outdated, because of "grandfather" clauses in the regulations. Some passenger ships still carry open boats. I don't think you'd find them on passenger ships, but some freighters still carry unpowered lifeboats. I know of recent cases of ships being detained for not having sails for their unpowered boats.
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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As somewhat of a sidenote:

Around 70% of Canadain and American flagged vessels that sail the Great Lakes where built before 1976. This would mean that a could majority (although not all) still carry open boats.

In a recent Shipping Safety Conference there was discussion on making it mandatory to update lifeboats on all ships to at least the SOLAS 76 regulations at the ships next 5 year haul out. Most of the shipping companies of course didn't like the idea, while most of the Masters and particularly the Unions loved it.

I once heard a shipping executive say that it was cheaper to pay insurance on you then it was to pay for update lifesaving equipment.