Types of Life-Saving Equipment Onboard


Types of Life-Saving Equipment Onboard

In addition to the strict rules and regulations that were applied in the design and construction of ships, it is necessary to carry certain rescue equipment and devices that help in case of a disaster.

Not all vessels have rescue equipment, which will be discussed. It depends on the type of vessel, the number of passengers (and crew) on board, and requirements related to safety rules that determine the type and quantity and the rescue equipment available.

Listed below are the main life-saving appliances used to evacuate and save lives when a ship is in distress.


This is the main life-saving tool. They must be available in sufficient quantity and have the necessary capacity and size so that the total number of people on board can be evacuated from the port or starboard side. (To ensure that in the event of a ship capsizing in one direction, lifeboats can be lowered from the side of the opposite side)

Small vessels, such as port and river vessels, use open lifeboats and semi-enclosed lifeboats.

Types of Life-Saving Equipment OnboardFor all large vessels, including those crossing the ocean, fully enclosed lifeboats are provided to provide better protection from weather and sea. They are equipped with small diesel engines for self-propelled work at a speed of about 6 knots and transport fuel for 24 hours of engine operation.

IMO adopted resolution MSC.402 (96), which emphasizes the necessary requirements for maintenance, repair, overhaul and thorough inspection of lifeboats, as well as testing their launch gear.

The following parts must be carefully inspected, wherever they are installed, and checked for satisfactory condition and performance.

  • Fire system
  • Rescue system
  • Fenders / Triggers
  • Status of the boat structure (with visual inspection of the external surfaces)
  • Engine and powerplant
  • Maneuvering system
  • Supply system
  • Air supply system.

Liferafts and inflatable floating devices

Liferafts are inflated using carbon dioxide from a storage cylinder, packed inside the raft inside the container.

They can be lowered through locks, triggers or free fall racks. They are first inflated on board and then lowered into the water.

Life rafts are subjected to a number of tests, such as a drop test, a jump test, a weight test, a tow test, etc. Some additional tests: damage, inflate, pressure test, weld strength, etc., are characteristic only for inflatable liferafts.

Rescue platform:

These are floating, rigid and “non-inflatable” platforms, performing functions similar to life rafts, but having the disadvantage of occupying more deck space. They are also subjected to various tests, such as tests of materials, buoyancy, etc., to assess their reliability.

Rescue boats

These are small, light boats designed to save people and tow rescue equipment (such as life rafts and floating devices). They are designed to descend in a matter of minutes, and must remain stable when a person rises from the water on either side. As a rule, such boats are available in different shapes and sizes.

The material used for production is usually fiberglass with the addition of inflatable rubber floating chambers for added stability.

They undergo the following checks: towing test, hard landing of a rescue boat, overload, operational tests, protection tests, maneuverability, etc.

See Resolution MSC.81 (70) Part 1-7 for more details on these tests.

Individual rescue equipment

Like lifeboats, personal floating devices also come in many shapes, sizes and designs. They can be a floating type with closed cell foam or can be inflatable.

Inflation can be done either orally, or in carbon dioxide, or in a combination of both. (Such lifejackets are located under the seats of each commercial airliner). They are equipped with whistles to attract the attention of rescuers, as well as a light beacon that lights up as soon as it touches the water. Alternatively, a chemical luminous rod and reflective material may be used.

Life jackets are also subjected to various tests, such as cyclical changes in temperature, buoyancy, fire, stability, strength, etc.


This is the usual rescue equipment found on all small and large vessels. They are installed around the perimeter of the ship’s deck and are designed to be quickly thrown to a person overboard, which is a frequent occurrence, and lifebuoys provide the fastest help in this case.

In accordance with SOLAS requirements, the following specifications are required (for each life buoy)

  • The outer diameter of the circle should not exceed 800 mm, and the inner should be at least 400 mm.
  • A circle must be set to withstand free fall into the water above the waterline of the vessel.
  • Weight at least 2.5 kg and must withstand 14.5 kg of weight afloat in fresh water for 24 hours.
  • The circle should be made of non-fading material.
  • The material must not be flammable.
Lifebuoys are also subject to a number of mandatory tests, including cyclic temperature change, drop test, oil resistance, fire resistance, buoyancy, strength, light and smoke alarm tests, and activation tests for light-emitting buoys.


They are also called immersion suits and are used as protective overalls. Their main function is to reduce human heat loss in cold water. Typical designs can prevent a drop in body temperature below 35 degrees Celsius for six hours for a person at a water temperature of 0 degrees.

Some of the important requirements highlighted in SOLAS chapter III / 32:

  • A wetsuit should be provided for each person on board the vessel. For vessels other than dry cargo vessels, this rule is not necessary, provided that the vessel is constantly involved in voyages in warm climatic conditions.
  • In the case of a remotely located shift or workstation, an appropriate number of suits should be provided at these locations.
  • They should be easily accessible with a clear indication of their position.

Communication facilities (radio equipment)

All ships should be equipped with common alarm systems to alert and call crews to their firefighters or boats.

Passenger ships must be equipped with warning systems. Communication systems also include portable radio stations (VHF) and are designed for emergency crew communications.

Emergency Position Beacons (EPIRB)

Emergency beacon - a device designed to notify the search and rescue services of the distress of a vessel by means of a signal. It is the main element of the GMDSS. 

Distress signals

Distress signals are usually parachute missiles that can be detected by nearby vessels and rescuers and determine the location of the ship in distress.

Resolution MSC.81 (70), part 1-4, contains the necessary recommendations for various pyrotechnic products.

Of primary importance are tests such as temperature tests, resistance to water and corrosion, processing, etc.

Test rocket parachute missiles:

  • 3 rockets should be launched (vertically). It is necessary to ensure the release of a parachute rocket above 300 meters. In addition, the speed of descent should not exceed 5 m / s and support burning for at least 40 seconds. Missiles should also function effectively when projected at an angle of 45 degrees to the horizontal. If the rocket is portable, its return should be minimal.
  • Laboratory tests should establish that the average luminous intensity of a flaming material (which should burn evenly) should be at least 30,000 cd with a bright red color.

Rescue equipment consists of a number of rescue equipment and equipment used to save people at sea and in the liquidation of emergency situations on board a ship.

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