According to the IMO, ships must carry appropriate life-saving appliances to be used by passengers and crew in case of emergency to protect their lives at sea. The carriage of life-saving appliances are made mandatory as per the SOLAS Convention. The International Life-Saving Appliance (LSA) Code provides more specific technical requirements for the manufacturing, testing, maintenance and record keeping of life-saving appliances.
The number, capacity and type of life-saving appliances differ from ship to ship depending on its size, shipping activity and voyage, and the LSA Code identifies minimum requirements to comply in order to make a ship safe for its passengers and crew.
Additionally international requirements involved in the IMO instruments for the life-saving appliances cover personal life-saving appliances such as lifebuoys, lifejackets, immersion suits, anti-exposure suits and thermal protective aids; visual aids, such as parachute flares, hand flares and buoyant smoke signals; survival craft, such as liferafts and lifeboats; rescue boats; launching and embarkation appliances and marine evacuation systems line throwing appliances; and general alarm and public address systems.
SOLAS in chapter III includes also the guidance and technical specifications for all ship related Lifesaving appliances. Different manufacturers and organizations provide a variety of LSA equipment worldwide to address the needs of maritime industry. It is Flag Administrations’ responsibility to check and approve that this equipment is in conformance with the requirements of SOLAS CH. III and LSA code.
Categories of Life Saving Appliances
- Personal Life Saving Appliances: Lifebuoys, Lifejackets, Immersion suits, Anti exposure suits and TPS (Thermal Protective Aids)
- Visual Signals: Rocket parachute flares, Hand flares, Buoyant smoke signals
- Survival equipment: Lifeboats, Life rafts, rescue boats
- Launching and embarkation appliances
Furthermore, there are some additional equipment/systems including in the LSA code but can not categorized in any of above 4 categories (Line Throwing Appliances, General alarm and public address system)
- Until 1912, safety rules surrounding lifeboats were out of date. It was not until after the sinking of Titanic that a broader movement began to require a sufficient number of lifeboats on passenger ships for all people onboard.
- The need for so many more lifeboats on the decks of passenger ships after 1912 led to the use of most of the deck space available even on the large ships, creating the problem of restricted passageways. This was resolved by the wider use of collapsible lifeboats.
- The first enclosed, unsinkable, self-righting lifeboat was launched in Delanco, New Jersey in 1944 after it was found that the chance of the crews of merchant ships surviving in open lifeboats was not very good during World War II and the Battle of the Atlantic.
- In 1870, the ‘City of Ragusa’ became the first small lifeboat to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Cork to Boston with only two men crew.
Lifeboat and rescue boat are not the same thing. Lifeboat is a survival craft used for sustaining the lives of persons in distress from the time of abandoning the ship while rescue boat is to rescue a person in distress (overboard) and to board the ship.