August 27, 2020

With the CORVID-19 pandemic causing shipyards to shut down operations, we have been receiving interests for 5 yearly inspections of lifeboats and davits and load tests to be carried out in the Singapore anchorage. This number has increased at least 4-5 times as compared to 'normal' times. We have been lucky to be awarded with some of these inspections and load tests in the anchorage, and I like to share some experience on that, pros & cons and lastly, what are the conflicting work to avoid, to complete the service smoothly.

Pros

  1. The entire 5 yearly inspection for 2 lifeboats and 2 davits with the load tests may be completed within 2 days. 1 day for inspection service and parts replacement, and the next day for load test.

Cons

  1. Some repair or service may only be possible to be done when the lifeboat is offloaded.
  2. Riskier in terms of safety for crew and equipment damage. Careful planning is required.
  3. Cancellation charge may apply if the load test cannot be carried out

We normally request for 2 days attendance for such work. 1st day is for performing inspection and service on the lifeboats, release gears and the launching appliances. The release gear will be overhauled and parts will be replaced to prepare for the load test. Also, normally the load test equipment will be sent onboard vessel after inspection is completed and deemed fit for load test.

Fully loaded pillow type water bags
Fully loaded pillow type water bags

As for 2nd day, the load test guys will load the lifeboat with balloon type water bags for the load test of the lifeboat, release gear onload release test and davit brake test. We do all the earlier mentioned tests in a single launch.

Agent also need to arrange for 'safety boat' to transport personnel (crew and service technicians) from the vessel to the lifeboat. Once the safety boat has arrived, then the Chief Mate or Captain will need to inform MPA Safety Dept via Channel 7 for approval.

We start off with the brake operation test, once the lifeboat is at the deck level, we lower the boat again 2-3 times to verify the brake function. When the classification surveyor is satisfied with the brake test, we lower the lifeboat to about 1 mtrs above sea level then wait for the personnel to enter the lifeboat. The 'safety boat' shall send them near the lifeboat where they have to jump over. Make sure that appropriate personal protective equipment are donned by the personnel at all times.

Sprinkler test after load test
Sprinkler test after load test

Once the personnel has entered the lifeboat, they will start off with the onload release hook operation test. Then engine operation and sprinkler test (if any), after the release hook has been reset properly. At this point, the operator should also check if the hydrostatic interlock device is activated. If it's not, notify the lifeboat service engineer/technician.

Please note that such tests i.e., the launching and retrieval of lifeboats can only be carried out during day time. Estimate between 7am to 7pm. If we missed this time frame due to poor weather or poor planning, the load test has to be postponed to the next day.

Hence, it is imperative that conflicting jobs should be identified and scheduled in such a way that the load test will not be affected.

Don't schedule bunker operations on lifeboat load test day
Don't schedule bunker operations on lifeboat load test day

Some points to take note:

  1. Bunkering, provision taking, etc... - Presence of vessels and/or boats affecting the lowering of lifeboats will affect the launching of lifeboats. Especially if the operations takes a few hours to complete. Such operations should take place 1 day before or 1 day after the load test.
  2. Diving operations - If divers are operating in the area, then for the safety of the divers, the launching of lifeboats is not permitted.
  3. Communicate properly with the service company and classification for the load test calculations, the test procedures and risk assessment. Many times we have encountered that when the load test is due, the classification surveyor does not agree with load test weights to be used or unsure how the test is to be carried out, resulting in wasted precious time.
  4. Wait for better weather and sea condition before carry out the test. We have about 12 hours for the test and each lifeboat test will take about 2-3 hours. If the test was done during poor external condition, it will be a danger to the crew and might damage the boat.
  5. Make sure that fwd and aft of the lifeboat is secured with a good quality painter line to prevent the boat from drifting away.
  6. Add a 1 mtr rope to the suspension ring for the crew to reach. After onload release test, the suspension ring might be difficult to reach so this additional rope will aid the crew in the recovery of the suspension ring.
  7. Common but devastating mistake - Always make sure drain plug has been closed tightly before lowering lifeboat into the water!

I hope that you find this article informative and if you have any suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me in Linkedin

Stay safe, Stay healthy!