200161 Lifeboat Falls and SOLAS

02 Mar 2001 MARS

The manufacturer's instructions on the maintenance of the lifeboat falls stipulate that "the falls shall be turned end for end at intervals of not more than 30 months and be renewed when necessary, due to deterioration of the falls or at intervals of not more than five years, whichever is the earlier".

This simply echoes the instructions contained in the previous consolidated text of SOLAS. Ship's staff have followed these instructions and this has created a problem.

In complying with the instruction, ship's staff have made a new splice in the fall wire using wire clamps. This type of splice should be avoided on wires used for purposes where life is at risk. Even more so if one considers that falls are often subject to shock loading. Wire clamps should be used with all clamps fitted in the same direction, the correct method being with the saddle of the clamp on the standing part of the wire, the "U" clamp being on the free end. The use of only three clamps is, in my opinion, insufficient for this purpose. In the instance stated, not only have the minimum number of grips been used but the crew have hedged their bets by placing the clamps with each saddle in the opposite direction.

The SOLAS instructions have subsequently been amended and a new paragraph added to Chapter lll. This reads:

"The Administration may accept in lieu of the "end for ending" required in paragraph 4.1, periodic inspections of the falls and their renewal whenever necessary due to deterioration or at intervals of not more than four years, whichever is the earlier".

Ship's staff are highly unlikely to change the falls after four years as it will now require an Exemption Certificate to authorise such a procedure. Without intervention by the ship's management, the situation will remain unaltered.