Rusty cable on lifeboat caused five deaths

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Three lifeboats were launched from a large passenger ship during a major lifeboat exercise. When one of them was being hoisted, the cable to the fore broke and the lifeboat was left hanging on the aft hook until it reached an angle of about 45°, when the hook device on the lifeboat broke. The lifeboat fell down into the water about 20 metres below and remained upside down on the surface. At the time of the accident there were eight men in the lifeboat. One was thrown out when it hit the water, and two others manage to escape from the upturned boat on their own. The other five were later declared dead. It appeared that the cable, which have been changed two a half years previously, had broken in the section which runs around the upper block. There was considerable rust damage to the inner threads of the cable. A more detailed investigation is underway. It is extremely important that lifeboats and their ancillary equipment are correctly and thoroughly maintained. It is also important that drills with the equipment are as realistic as possible, but without exposing crewmembers to unnecessary risks. It is not a requirement to have anybody in a lifeboat when it is lowered or hoisted. (If it is decided to have somebody in the lifeboat, it is recommended that the boat is first lowered and raised without anybody in before the drill itself is started. In addition, special safety measures should be taken, such as using protective equipment for falls and, if the boat is covered, keeping crewmembers on the outside.)
More detailed recommendations (which have been introduced in the Swedish regulation TSFS 2009:93) can be found in the document MSC.1/ Circ.1206.Rev.1, which is issued by the IMO. It can be found at the following link: www.imo.org 
In the document MSC.1/Circ.1326, the IMO makes it clear that it is not necessary to have crewmembers in a lifeboat when it is launched or hoisted (see link.)

Safety Alert SLma 06/03/2013 

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