Evacuating a ship is a complex task, especially if there are passengers on board. Monica Lundh is a researcher who has studied the problems faced when abandoning ship.
Bad weather, problems with lifeboats, people panicking, the ship listing and fire may all be involved. When you have lost control of the situation on board and the ship must be abandoned, the crew has many difficulties to overcome. Monica Lundh is a marine engineer and doctor of technology at the Department of shipping and marine technology at Chalmers. She has studied evacuation procedures on cruise ships and says that they make great demands on the crew, not least when handling passengers.
”People react very differently in the event of an accident, but speaking very generally it is possible to divide them into three groups. Most people don’t realise how serious it is; they are cautious but are usually easy to control. A small group only takes a few seconds to understand what has happened. They take the matter into their own hands and act forcefully to save themselves or others. A small group becomes irrational. They shout and scream, or become apathetic. It can be very difficult to make these last two groups do what you want them to.
” The crew needs to be well prepared for the different reactions they may meet in passengers. ”You must be very clear and act with authority to make people do what you want and quickly go to the muster stations on deck,” says Monica. Another problem in connection with evacuation is the lifeboats. Over the years, a number of seafarers have been injured during lifeboat drills, despite the fact that these are often done by the quayside in calm weather.
Working with lifeboats in a crisis situation, possibly in high seas with the ship listing badly, is even more difficult. ”On cargo ships it is the hands that are responsible for lifeboats, and the task is fairly similar to what they normally work with. But on ferries there are not enough hands and the catering personnel, cleaners and shop staff are also expected to help out. It requires a lot of practice and training, and the question is whether the training they get is sufficient.”