Lifeboat guide fills gap ‘between training and reality’

Crude oil tanker’s life boat sailing in an emergency drill. Credit: Getty Images.

A book from the Nautical Institute (NI) titled Driving Lifeboats and Rescue Boats aims ‘to fill the gap between training and reality’ by providing ‘potentially lifesaving insights’ into the realities of handling a lifeboat, man overboard (MOB) boat, or fast rescue boat in all conditions. It is a sequel to the author Dag Pike’s Launch and Recovery of Boats from Ships, which was published in 2017.

The NI noted that Pike is “one of the most experienced navigators in the world and speaks from experience, having been shipwrecked twice in the Atlantic”. It added that he has extensive experience in handling small craft in emergencies and challenging conditions. After serving as Captain of the UK’s Trinity House lighthouse tenders, he went on to become an Inspector of Lifeboats with the country’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution and was responsible for some 50 lifeboat stations.

“There is no easy way to abandon ship,” said Pike. He explained that taking to the boats, getting away from a stricken vessel, and safely negotiating the open sea until rescued is likely to be one of the most demanding tasks a seafarer will ever have to face.

Training in sheltered waters, according to Pike, can never properly prepare a mariner for the hazards of an emergency abandon ship or replicate the panic that may take hold among passengers in a lifeboat.

In the guide he explains boarding preparations, leaving the ship’s side, and how to handle small craft in beam seas, head seas, fog, ice, and darkness. Pike also goes into the difficulties of transferring the ship’s crew and passengers to rescue vessels, stating that many modern lifesaving craft designs are “unsatisfactory” for this procedure. Also discussed are the different driving techniques needed for fast boats used to rescue people in the water and to tow liferafts.

John Lloyd, NI’s CEO, told SAS, “The NI believes this is a publication focusing on the skills required for handling both lifeboats and rescue craft. Our seafarers receive training to the minimum level in the STCW [Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping], but more practice and greater knowledge certainly enhances safety – especially in such specialist areas as the handling of survival craft.”

“Many forward-looking employers recognise the importance of additional practice, drills, and training, and we are pleased and reassured that in these cases skills continue to improve,” he added. “For many, though, the minimum training is all that is received and with scant opportunity for further practice, these mariners are less well prepared to deal with a real emergency.”