While there may be a lot of safety gear on a shipping vessel—from alarm systems to personal work equipment—the most basic form of protection is the survival equipment that can keep seamen alive on the open water until a rescue team can reach them. This includes lifeboats and survival suits to protect their crews.
Ship owners are held to strict laws and industry regulations for preparing crews for an emergency at sea. This includes rules for:
- Carrying life-saving equipment
- Training crewmembers
- Stocking lifeboats with emergency supplies
- Inspecting and maintaining equipment
All seamen working on a cargo vessel should be trained on how to survive in emergency situations and when to use the emergency equipment provided. If a company fails to provide adequate training or adequate life-saving equipment, it could be liable for the deaths and injuries that happen as a result.
Potential Life-Saving Equipment Onboard Your Ship
Immersion Survival Suits
Immersion survival suits—sometimes referred to as “Gumby” suits for their strange appearance—are designed to keep seamen warm, dry, and afloat. A vessel must have survival suits available for every person onboard, and double the number of suits may be required if the suits are not kept in an area accessible from the workers’ stations.
Survival suits are often very brightly colored and use reflective materials for better visibility to rescue teams. In general, survival suits are usually also fire resistant and many have additional safety options that might include battery-operated beacons, “buddy lines” to connect suits together, dye markers, and other ways to help a seaman signal for help.
The fiberglass lifeboats used on ships that haven't upgraded to state-of-the-art, fully-enclosed lifeboats are supposed to be capable of operation even when filled with water and carrying a full load of people. They are designed to be “unsinkable” and stay afloat even in severe conditions. Unlike inflatable lifeboats, the sturdier lifeboats used on large vessels aren’t as vulnerable to puncture and other potential problems. However, many must be manually launched by a person onboard the ship, which takes additional time and risk. Extreme weather conditions can make deploying these lifeboats very difficult or even impossible if the vessel is at a list or the vessel has been damaged and crewmembers can't reach the lifeboats. Like survival suits, lifeboats are also usually brightly colored and reflective for visibility.
The state of the art for current lifeboat technology calls for totally self-enclosed lifeboats. Fully-enclosed lifeboats are self-righting, carry their own air supply, and are fire resistant for 8 minutes. These are also designed to be easier to launch than traditional lifeboats, often using gravity instead of manual release mechanisms that can get stuck or become inoperable if the vessel loses power.
What Happens After Life-Saving Equipment Doesn't Save People?
Life-saving equipment is designed to take a beating, but the conditions in a hurricane, winter storm, or any emergency situation are extreme. While crews are generally trained to use survival suits and lifeboats in calm waters and conditions, getting to these items and using them during high winds and violent seas can be a very different story. Even during a situation where seas are calm but the vessel is sinking due to shifting cargo or a collision, there's high potential that you won't be able to make it to your survival equipment or the existing safety standards fail you.
What happens after incidents where life-saving equipment doesn't save people is that extensive investigations and lawsuits swing into action. Experts examine what happened, determine where the failures occurred, and make recommendations on how to improve safety regulations so another tragedy won't happen in the future. If you survived an emergency situation despite life-saving equipment failures or you lost a loved one due to failed life-saving equipment and procedures, you might be able to pursue a lawsuit and hold the company accountable for their failure in keeping you safe. Find out what your rights are and how you can help prevent future tragedies. Contact us today.