The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) has issued a Marine Notice that explains how to use fall preventer devices (FPDs) properly onboard. As explained, their use has been implemented on many ships, allowing lowering and recovery of the boat with personnel inside, with enhanced safety and familiarisation benefits.
PDs are intended to protect against the consequences of an unintended release of the hook(s). The safety pin type consists of a steel pin which passes through the cheek plates of the release gear to physically prevent the hook from releasing by locking it in the engaged position and many modern designs now feature such safety pins.
An alternative method used for older designs which do not feature safety pins is to fit resilient strops or continuous slings across the on-load release between a fixed strong point on the lifeboat and the falls block ring or shackle. The resilient FPD will not prevent the on-load release gear from releasing but will prevent hazardous consequences.
The BMA recognises the overriding authority and the responsibility of the Master to make decisions with respect to safety, as set out in Paragraph 5.2 of the ISM Code and consequently accepts the use of FPDs when advocated by the Company.
Where FPDs are used, procedures for their use, inspection and maintenance shall be made available to ship’s crew and documented in the ship’s Safety Management System.
The professional judgement of the Master is necessary in deciding the occasions and circumstances when FPDs are installed and used, such as when the suspension hooks of the craft cannot be secured in a fail-safe condition (i.e. “closed”) when at any significant height above the water.
The BMA has no objection to the use of FPDs on Bahamian ships in association with any safety drill or exercise and highlights the following:
- Any FPD installed shall be fit for purpose. The proposal to use such a device shall be subject to an engineering analysis to ensure that the device and existing lifeboat structure and arrangements are capable of withstanding any loadings which would result from the failure of the on-load release gear with the boat in the fully-loaded condition and suspended from the davits.
- A factor of safety of six (6) should be the minimum used in such an analysis. All materials used shall be suitable for use in the marine environment.
- Wires or chains shall not be used as FPDs as they do not absorb shock loads.
- Resilient FPDs shall be continuous slings or strops of a type which have permanent end loops and shall be of a suitable length to ensure minimal drop in the event of premature release of the hook arrangement.
- Strops shall be dedicated to lifeboat use and should be suitably identified to ensure that they are not used for any other purpose.
- Continuous slings have an advantage over strops in that they possess fewer points of splicing (potential failure points) and can be arranged in shorter lengths. They can also be released in an emergency (when waterborne) by cutting a single member of the sling.
- All such FPDs should be protected by an outer cover that protects them from damage or degradation from chemical contamination or ultra-violet light. The outer covering should not be contributory to the overall tensile strength of the sling or strop.
In selecting FPDs, BMA recommends companies to ensure that a comprehensive risk assessment is carried out to ensure that nothing is done to compromise the effectiveness of the operation of the release gear.
This is particularly important where the installation of a safety pin is considered. The Company shall not make any modification which adversely affects the strength and type approval of the hook and release gear arrangement.
Furthermore, where FPDs fitted are synthetic strops or slings, a functional test should be carried out. The function test should demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Recognised Organisation surveyor, that the equipment performs without interfering in the operation of the lifeboat or launching equipment. The function test is to be carried out at the 5 yearly load test and thorough examination as required by regulation 20.11 of SOLAS III.