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Lifeboats: Help or hazard?

When you leave New York or another port and head to sea, it should go without saying that your ship will have an adequate number of lifeboats to rescue everyone on board in case of an emergency. Safety4Sea.com notes that merely having them is not enough, as statistics indicate that a lifeboat may be as likely to kill you as save you.

The lifeboats on your vessel require constant maintenance, and this goes beyond making sure that they will not take on water. For example, if you are on a ship that transports hazardous cargo, accidents may cause a fire on the surface of the ocean. To escape the situation, you must have a system that protects the boat from the blaze, and the engine of the boat typically pumps the water spray as well as moving you through the water. Regular maintenance may require you to start the engines weekly and let them run to ensure that they are ready for an emergency.

Wire ropes used to raise and lower the boats are subject to corrosion and damage that weakens them, but during the annual inspection, all sections may not be visually accessible. Even in those places where an inspector is able to access the ropes, damage may not be easy to spot due to lubrication. An inspector may also have difficulty knowing whether a rope meets the manufacturer’s standards for safety if your captain cannot provide identification of the type of wire.

You may also be in danger from a limit switch failure or winch crank handle problems. The entire crew should have training and practice a full launch of the boats to avoid injury accidents during embarkation. This information is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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