Free-Fall Lifeboats Safest Means of Evacuation at Sea

The current free-fall technology with skid launched lifeboats and drop lifeboats is the safest method for ensuring that the means of evacuation moves personnel away from the offshore facility as quickly as possible. The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) considers free-fall life boats to be the best technology available at present within lifeboat evacuation on the Norwegian shelf.

By comparison, it takes more time to launch conventional lifeboats of the type that has to be lowered into the water. Furthermore, it is only the engine power of the conventional lifeboats themselves that makes the boat move away from the installation the crew is being evacuated from.

Clear evacuation routines and a crew trained to handle the lifeboats will ensure proper loading and that the drop zone has been cleared.

Joint efforts
The parties in the industry and the lifeboat manufacturers are united in adopting the free-fall technology. A united industry - in cooperation with the authorities- is also the driving force behind the network currently working to obtain an overview of the total number of free-fall lifeboats on the Shelf, a review of prototype test requirements, the regulatory requirements and any need for improvements that might exist.

The PSA has also recently discussed this issue with offshore safety authorities from Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the USA. All of these authorities are of the opinion that free-fall lifeboats represent a safer and more effective evacuation solution as compared with conventional lifeboats.

The 1980s
Heimdal and Gullfaks A were amongst the first facilities on the Norwegian Shelf to have free-fall lifeboats installed as a means of evacuation - in 1985 and 1986 respectively.

The PSA regulations, Section 43 of the Facilities Regulations (Means of Evacuation), stipulate that free-fall lifeboats must be employed as the primary means of evacuation at sea. The requirements were stipulated for the first time in the Emergency Preparedness Regulations in 1992 and transferred to the new set of regulations.


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