Emergency response actions. Man overboard. Collision or grounding. Helicopter ditching

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An emergency situation may arise both due to perils of sea and due to any human’s errors or omissions. Nevertheless, not depending on the source of emergency, only due to rapid response actions and cooperative efforts of crew members such situation can be coped with. It may be attained only if each crew member deeply understands the emergency duties he is assigned to. The actions of the crew are largely governed by the circumstances and will depend on concrete situation.

Let’s take up situations which are most often encountered in maritime practice:


Anyone who has sighted a person in the water should immediately throw a lifebuoy and raise the alarm regardless of whether a person has fallen overboard from your own ship or a person from another craft is seen already in the water.

The emergency squad will muster at the EHQ and than proceed to the lifeboat. The boat crew shall don lifejackets and take a spare one for the casualty. This crew comprises the members of the emergency squad. The Chief Officer as a rule takes charge of lowering the boat. A Deck Officer is in charge of the boat crew. An engineer is responsible for the boat engine.

The following procedures should be adopted by the OOW in the event of a man overboard:

1.  Commence the Williamson or other turn;

2.  Release a lifebuoy with light, flare or smoke signal from the Bridge wings on the side where the person has fallen overboard or sighted;

3.  Note the position of lifebuoy as search datum;

4.  Sound emergency station signal;

5.  Post lookouts with binoculars;

6.  Inform the Master;

7.  Inform the E/R and put the engine “ at stand by “ ;

8.  Instruct the emergency squad to go to accident boat station;

9.  If at night, arrange for an extra man to operate the search light or signaling;

10.  Broadcast man overboard warning;


In the event of collision OOW shall sound emergency alarm and maneuver the ship so as to minimize further damage.

He must ensure that watertight and automatic fire doors are closed, deck lighting is switched on, VHF is kept on Channel 16, bilges and tanks are sounded after collision or grounding. He also should broadcast distress signal.

The chief Officer will establish the extent of the damage resulted from collision or stranding if the point of impact is outside the E/R. He will report to the Master and take any actions to tackle the damage and to stop the ingress of water. The Master will together with the C/O calculate the effect of the damage on the vessel’s stability before ordering redistribution of weights (transfer of cargo, ballast and so on).

The Second Engineer will take charge if the point of impact is within the machinery spaces.

The Chief Engineer will take charge of pumping out arrangements.

The Maser must be kept informed of problems and progress. 


 In the event of fire on board the emergency response actions depend on the scene of emergency. Regardless of whether the fire has arisen in accommodation, or in E/R, or in pump room, or in other spaces the OOW should adopt the following actions:

·  Sound emergency alarm;

·  Determine the seat of fire;

·  Ensure that ventilation, automatic fire doors, watertight doors are closed;

·  Ensure that deck is switched on;

·  Broadcast distress signal;


Master / OOW shall:

Sound the alarm signal, make necessary alteration of course and speed to effect rescue; advice shore and order lifeboat preparation and coordinate rescue using VHF transceivers. If helicopter ditches near the ship a life craft is prepared for launching under the supervision of designated Deck Officer, who also instructs lifeboat crew as to their actions. Lifeboat crew dons life jackets and protective clothing. Before launching it’s necessary to ensure that the engine is operational and VHF transceivers are placed into boat.  Lifeboat picks up survivors on board and returns to ship. The survivors may require medical treatment.

During the voyage some problems with navigating aids and engines may arise such as main engine failure, steering gear failure, gyro or magnetic compass failure, bridge control and telegraph failure and so on. In the event of main engine and steering failure the OOW should exhibit “Not under command” shapes or lights and broadcast warning. Master and E/R must be informed in all above-said cases.

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