Lifeboat Launching Order | Full Procedure step by step

life boat launching

Lifeboats and rescue boats are delivered on board ships as a means to rescue lives in emergencies. The number of rescue boats and life rafts is provided, based on the ability of these equipment and the number of ships rescue crew.

SOLAS requirements for lifeboats

  • The life boat is rigid construction capable of maintaining positive stability in the upright position when loaded with a complete list of people and equipment in the calm water.
  • Except in the free fall, each vessel which to be released from the drop must have sufficient strength to withstand when loaded with their full team and skates or fenders in position, a lateral impact against ship side at an impact velocity of at least 3.5m/sec and also a drop into water from a height of at least 3 mtrs.
  • The rescue boat/ life boat will carry all the devices described under SOLAS that can be used in marine survival.
  • The requirement of a cargo ships lifeboat with 20 000 GT is the lifeboat should be able to throw when the ship is running at a speed of 5 knots.
  • The life boat should be no less than 7.3 meters long and two rescue/life boats are provided on both sides of the ship (port and starboard). The size, number and capacity of the rescue vessel of a merchant vessel are decided by vessel type and number of ships.
  • Each seat position clearly on the boat must be indicated.
  • The rise time for the launcher should not be less than 0.3 m / s when the vessel is loaded around the capacity.
  • The life boat has to print internationally orange posters painted with glossy boot.
  • The wires which lift or lower the lifeboat are known as falls and the speed of the lifeboat descent should not be more then 36m/ min which is controlled by means of centrifugal brakes.
  • Regular exercise should ensure that the members of the ship's crew are able to start and lower the boat with a minimum of time in a real emergency.


In order to lower the boat, a minimum of 6 crew members, apart from the coxswain (steering wheel) are required.

Their duties are as follows:-

1. Bowman (Passes the painter forward & releases falls fwd.)……..AB
2. Forward gripes, harbour safety pin and painter (Removes forward gripes, checks safety pin and makes fast the painter forward)…..AB
3. Brakes-man (Operates the dead man’s handle)…….BOSUN
4. After gripes, harbor safety pin (Removes after gripes, checks safety pin )……..AB
5. Jacob’s ladder (Rig Jacob’s ladder and help passengers and crew embark the boat from the embarkation deck)……..OS
6. Stern sheet (Checks boat plug shipped in and releases falls aft)…….OS
The orders to the crew members are given by the Master as follows:-

1. “Stations
  Upon this order, the boat’s crew proceed to their designated Stations.
2. “Clear away
Upon this order, the boat’s crew sees that there is no obstruction for launching of the boat.
3. “Unship the safety pins
Upon this order, No.2 and No.4 check and unship the harbor safety pins forward and aft, if required.
4. “Let go gripes forward and aft
Upon this order No.2 and No.4 let go the fwd. and after gripes. Make sure that the gripes triggers have fallen. The bowman passes the painter well forward making sure that it is well clear. The stern-sheet sees that the rudder is free and boat plug is shipped. The bowman and stern sheet make sure that the falls are clear and life lines are secured.
5. “Lower the boat to the embarkation deck
Upon this order the brakes-man lowers the boat to the embarkation  deck by gradually releasing the hand brake. Every time the boat is lowered, the coxswain and the bakes-man must make sure that the crank handle is unshipped (especially if the boat was hoisted earlier with the crank handle) otherwise when boat is lowered,   this may injure the brakes-man and any other person in the vicinity. The brakes-man will lower the boat by the brake and the boats moves on track-ways, till the tricing pendants have brought the boats alongside to the embarkation deck. The full weight of the boat should not be allowed to come on tricing pendant. If the brakes-man releases the brake and the boat does not come down, that means there is some obstruction preventing the boat from sliding on the track-ways. The obstruction should be removed.
6.  “Make fast bowsing in tackles
Upon this order, the bowman and the stern sheet from the boat hook up the bowsing in tackles on to the floating blocks and on the ring bolts provided on the ship’s side, or on the gravity davits, making sure that the hauling parts are hooked on the ship-side. Then haul on the bowsing in tackles taut and make fast in the boat. The purpose of the bowsing in tackles is to keep the boat alongside the embarkation deck.
7.  “Let go tricing pendant
Upon this order, the tricing pendant must be removed and the weight of the boat is taken up by the falls and the bowsing in tackles. Tricing pedant must be released before persons are allowed to embark; that will ensure that the full weight of the boat is taken by the boat falls.
8.  “Embark passengers and crew
Upon this order, the women and children embark first, then the rest of the passengers and finally the crew. All the persons in the boat must be seated as low as possible, away from the entrance and their hands and elbows must be off the gunwale.
9.  “Ease the bowsing in tackles
Upon this order, the browsing in tackles are eased off and then let go. The bowsing in tackles should be detached from the falls and kept hanging on the ship-side.
10. “Lower away the boat”. The boat is lowered by the brakes-man on the crest of the waves then allowed to drop into the trough while afloat. This will overhaul the falls so that when the boat rises on the next crest, the falls can be unlocked. The bowman and sternsheet make sure that both the falls are hooked together. If however, the ship has any headway on her, it is better to let go after falls first, rather than risk the boat being towed by the after falls. In a calm sea it is better to let the boat go last 3 meters (10 feet) with run, so the boat will plunge and overhaul the falls sufficiently for them to be unhooked. After the falls are unhooked, care should be taken so that the blocks of the falls do not injure any one because blocks will swing about after they have been let go. Therefore, as soon as the blocks are released, if emergency power is available on the winch, the falls can be heaved up by the winch-man so as to be well clear of the survivors. If the power is not available, boat could be pulled little away forward by means of toggle painter, while waiting for the winch-man to come down the ladder. After the winch-man and the coxswain have come down, pass the toggle painter aft, put the tiller towards the shipside and get the boat away from the shipside and then let go the toggle painter. The boat should be pulled about ¼ mile away from the ship, then stream the sea anchor and wait for orders from the senior officer’s boat.

If the order “Still” is given whilst the boat is being swung out and lowered, everyone stops whatever he is doing. This order is given when some fault is found and there may be immediate danger of an accident taking place. When the fault is corrected “Carry on” is given.

Six easy steps to launch an open life boat are given below which are self explanatory.

Life lowering procedure
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Author Amit                                                                            Article Requested By: Prevesh pradhan

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