Types of Lifeboats Used on Ships

Image Courtesy: Garry Knight/wikipedia.org

Lifeboats play an important role on ships and in case of an eventuality, they’re the means by which lives can be saved and the crew can travel safely ashore. Each ship, depending on where it is manufactured, is fitted with a different type of lifeboat. Companies have to follow strict regulations regarding the number of lifeboats on board and the upkeep of these is of central importance for a ship to meet and pass safety standards.

Lifeboats can also be kept on shore to rescue people who are in trouble at sea. These small rigid vessels, which can also be referred to as elaborate versions of a life raft, are secured on the ship into davits which allows it to be launched from the side of the ship, saving crucial escape time as it uses minimal mechanical assistance to be launched allowing an early escape. Besides rescuing people from a dangerous situation, a lifeboat is also required to have essential survival equipment for the people on board the lifeboat to use to survive until they receive help.

There are three different types of lifeboats, each type serves a purpose and is partnered with a vessel that it is compatible with. The following are the three broad types:

Image Courtesy: Selsey Lifeboats

Open Lifeboat:

As the name suggests, the open lifeboat has no roof and is normally propelled by manual power by using hand propelled ores in order to move. Compression ignition engine may also be provided for the propulsion purpose. However, open lifeboats are becoming obsolete now because of stringent safety norms, but one may find them on older ship. These are the least common lifeboats and are now commonly found only on older ships. Some of these boats may also come with ignition engine as a replacement for the hand propelled ores to allow the lifeboat to gain movement. These lifeboats usually have the tendency to collect water during rainy seasons. Also due to the fact that they do not have a roof, they cannot guarantee 100% safety for their passengers. Due to their older designs, very little safety features and stringent safety norms, these lifeboats are becoming obsolete.

Image Courtesy: Remi Jouan/wikipedia.org

Closed lifeboat:

Closed lifeboats are the most popular lifeboats that are used on ships. Moreover, the water tight integrity is higher in this type of lifeboat and it can also get upright on its own if toppled over by waves. Closed lifeboats are further classified as – Partially enclosed and fully enclosed lifeboats. The enclosed design saves the lifeboats passengers from sea water, rough weather or strong winds.

Image Courtesy: Riley Huntley/wikipedia.org

Free fall life boat:

This type was depicted in the popular movie, Captain Phillips. These lifeboats are similar to closed lifeboats with the difference being their shape. The launching process of these boats is totally different from closed lifeboats. These boats have an aerodynamic shape which allows them to penetrate the water without damaging their body as they free fall from the ship when launched into the water. They are located at the aft of the ship which provides them with the maximum clear area to free fall into the water.

These lifeboats also make use of different methods to deploy into the sea during an emergency. Two most common methods are on load mechanism and free fall boat release. On load mechanism is when a lifeboat is released from a wire at the height of 1 meter above sea level with all the crew members inside the life boat. A lever which can be controlled from inside the lifeboat is used to detach the lifeboat from the hook. This ensures safety of the passengers as they do not have to go out of the life boat to unhook the lifeboat. A free fall release is similar to the on load mechanism with the difference being that the boat is allowed to free fall from a greater height through a rap tilted into the water which is almost near the top of the ship.

Sea News Feature, January 25