Modern Lifeboats

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Aug 31, 2004
Have you ever thought that the lifeboats of todays ships aren't as safe as older ship's lifeboats? they are so far down on the ship, they would already be under water by the time they started to be lowered on the Titanic. And remember those weird davits on the Brittanic, that could lower to the other side of the ship, in case of listing? (would have been useful on the Andrea Doria or the Empress of Ireland) What do you think?
Oct 28, 2000
Matthew-- the concepts behind loading and launching of lifeboats today are different from the open falls and wooden boats of 1912. By placing them lower, the boats can be launched at a higher angle of list. And, in theory at least the ship should be designed so that boats can be loaded and launched within a very short time--short enough that everything is still above water.

The problem which remains unaddressed is recovery of the loaded lifeboats. With the "mother ship" at the bottom of the ocean, how do you get the boats and their survivors out of the water? It is virtually an impossibility for modern freighters to affect a rescue of lifeboats. Governmental agencies like Coast Guards have excellent helicopter rescue procedures for one or two victims. But, nobody has any provision for picking up say 5,000 people from a fleet of lifeboats. And, I've not read any proposals for handling this situation.

But I suppose E.J. Smith was correct when he said, "I cannot imagine any condition that would caus a ship to founder...Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that."

--David G. Brown

Erik Wood

Aug 24, 2000
To discuss further what Dave has said above. By International Law the ships commander has 30 minutes to abandon ship. That is successfully have the ship completely abandoned. You look at the size of today's ships and one has to wonder exactly how well that would go in a real world situation.

Dave mentions recovery of boats from the water. There is currently no procedure or protocol that address's this anywhere that I am aware of. Rescue of those in lifeboats is done by what ever means available and there is no consistent method internationally (that I am aware of). You either bring the ship to the boat or the boat comes to you, you drop a ladder and they climb up. That is the only method that I am aware of. The odds of a modern vessel being able to be completely abandoned in less then 30 minutes is not good. The idea that a ship the size of the ones plowing around now would stay afloat if seriously damaged for more then 30 minutes is also not good. So the odds of you having to recover 5,000 for a lifeboat at sea are almost nonexistent with todays ships and equipment.
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