The Committee approved the Guidelines on safety during abandon ship drills using lifeboats, following the amalgamation of annex 1 to the Measures to prevent accidents with lifeboats and the Interim Recommendation on conditions for authorization of service providers for lifeboats, launching appliances and on-load release gear in the Requirements for maintenance, thorough examination, operational testing, overhaul and repair of lifeboats and rescue boats, launching appliances and release gear.

The package of requirements, expected to enter into force on 1 January 2020, has made mandatory measures to prevent accidents with survival craft and to address longstanding issues such as the need for a uniform, safe and documented standard related to the servicing of these appliances, as well as the authorization, qualification and certification requirements to ensure that a reliable service is provided.

Amendments to the Guidelines for evaluation and replacement of lifeboat release and retrieval systems were intended to include a method of assessment for hook fixed structural connections of the release mechanism and supporting structure, which are not made of material resistant to corrosion in the marine environment, in order to confirm that they are in "good condition".

According to IMO, the essential steps to safely carry out a typical drill as per SOLAS Regulation III/19 involve:

  1. Check equipment and documentation to ensure that all components of the lifeboat
    and launching appliance are in good operational condition.
  2. Ensure that all personnel involved in the drill are familiar with the operating manuals,
    posters and signs.
  3. Ensure that the restraining device(s) provided by the manufacturer for simulated
    launching are installed and secure and that the free-fall release mechanism is fully and
    correctly engaged.
  4. Establish and maintain good communication between the assigned operating crew
    and the responsible person
  5. Disengage lashings, gripes, etc. installed to secure the lifeboat for sea or for
    maintenance, except those required for simulated free-fall.
  6. Participating crew board the lifeboat and fasten their seatbelts under the supervision
    of the responsible person.
  7. All crew disembark the lifeboat.
  8. Return the lifeboat to the condition it was in prior to step provided in paragraph 3.4.
    Ensure that the lifeboat is returned to its normal stowed condition. Remove any restraining
    and/or recovery devices used only for the simulated launch procedure

It has been reported that lifeboat drill accidents have significantly increased during last years. A report by academics at the Seafarers International Research Centre found that tight vessel schedules often did not allow sufficient time for drills and crew were often too frightened to take part as they had not been properly trained in using the equipment.

Explore more by reading IMO's official document: