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Safe Abandoning of Ships - Improvement of Current Lifesaving Appliances Systems

The project is aiming to realise innovative and proven evacuation craft concepts to increase passenger safety substantially during an emergency at sea. It addresses the assessment procedures and generates novel concepts in order to increase the reliability of ship rescue.

Tags: Water


A tendency to develop passenger vessels carrying more than 5 000 passengers can be foreseen. A major calamity, such as flooding or fire, would have catastrophic consequences and special focus should be given to the means of rescue. Little scientific evidence is available on the effectiveness of ship evacuation craft in realistic conditions. No technical evidence seems to be available on the performance of the rescue system, i.e. hardware and procedures/management. Analysing the rescue process as a whole and considering non-conventional measures might increase the effectiveness of safety investments and save space aboard ship. Moreover, the success rate will improve dramatically. Model-scale and full-scale tests of novel rescue system concepts under extreme weather conditions will be required and a full-scale test prototype will be developed in order to obtain evacuation success rates.

Passenger transportation by sea or inland is important for many European citizens, living an average distance away from waterways of about 50 km.

Europe is the market leader when it comes to capital investment in passenger ships and ferries throughout the world. By taking the lead in improving human safety and by providing standards for all lifesaving appliances in Europe, we can strengthen our position and maintain our influence on the market.


The objective is to provide an improvement in safety for the evacuation system in terms of passenger/crew survivability by conceptual improvements of current lifesaving appliances (LSA).

This project is concentrating on the rescue process by both quantifying the performance of ship evacuation craft and improving the concept of reaching the rescue vessel in a safe and reliable manner. The challenge is to exploit a first principles approach (regarding hydromechanics, mechanics and human behaviour) in the design of rescue systems for passengers, addressing both the hardware and the procedures.

The project takes the two major aspects into consideration:

  1. Passenger performance

    Performance of passengers under an evacuation can be characterised by parameters which can quantify passenger abilities. Examples are the ability to climb/descend or the ability to survive violent motions during a lifeboat launch.

    Psychological aspects related to passenger behaviour are considered in a pragmatic fashion.

  2. Hardware performance

    The evacuation hardware can also be characterised by physical parameters, but now with respect to what is required from passengers in order to successfully use the hardware, e.g. height of the steps to be taken for boarding a lifeboat, including the effect of motions.

Boarding of rescue platform from a raft
Boarding of rescue platform from a raft

Description of work

The project focuses on researching current evacuation craft, and the development of new concepts and assessment and testing of their life-saving performance. The complete rescue process will be investigated from abandoning the ship until leaving the survival craft on a safe refuge area.

The following steps will be taken:

  1. Identify appropriate parameters to assess the performance of evacuation systems in a quantitative fashion
  2. Identify and modify calculation tools to predict evacuation hardware performance in terms of physical circumstances to which passengers will be subjected, as well as mechanical reliability
  3. Acquire well-documented and reproducible test data on physical performance which can be expected from passengers
  4. Acquire well-documented and reproducible test data on characteristics of existing evacuation hardware
  5. Use data from tests on existing hardware to modify and tune the calculation tools
  6. Generate new evacuation concepts
  7. Predict the characteristics of these concepts with relation to physical circumstances to which passengers will be subjected when using these new systems, as well as mechanical reliability
  8. Build a demonstrator of the most promising concept and put it to the test.


The following results will be achieved:

  1. A method to assess overall reliability and effectiveness of rescue systems for passenger vessels, integrating available methodology from earlier studies on specific subjects of the rescue process
  2. Potential improvements for existing systems and their expected effectiveness, supported by theoretical and experimental assessment
  3. Innovative ship evacuation concepts including their expected effectiveness, supported by theoretical and experimental assessment
  4. An application of an equivalent design clause under the SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) provision for the innovative LSA concept.

The aim is to prove attained safety levels acceptable to the EC. Stated safety levels must be supported by sound scientific evidence. In this respect, physical model tests and full-scale tests will play a decisive role.