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Web alert: Visual checks - An essential part of lifeboat safety

27 June 2014

A recent accident involving a free fall lifeboat occurred when the hook system, intended to secure the lifeboat in place, released unexpectedly. The cause of the incident was the hook's failure to fully reset after the lifeboat was launched and recovered.

In order to reset the hook a recirculation procedure needed to be followed which involved the operation of a valve and recirculation of hydraulic oil back to an oil reservoir. Subsequent tests showed that carrying out the recirculation procedure did not always result in the system being fully reset. In the case of the particular model of release hook, the status of the mechanism may be determined by a visual inspection which, on this occasion, would have indicated that the hydraulic actuating ram was not in its retracted, reset position. This incident was further exacerbated by failure of the simulation wires, which are designed to prevent the launch of a lifeboat in just such a situation.

When resetting a free fall lifeboat’s hooks, a visual inspection should be carried out to ensure that the hook is seated in the correct position and the mechanism is fully, ‘physically’ reset. Such a check may well have prevented the accident, described above, from occurring.