Safety onboard the ships is an important issue. Normally at sea and often very far from any possible assistance, there is nobody who can be called upon for help. Of course, the ship should be of good design, well maintained and in seaworthy condition with sufficient stability, watertight and weather tight and properly equipped.

Prevention through recognition, rectification and avoidance of unsafe actions and/or situations at all times and at all places on board by all personnel and passengers is of utmost importance.

Since July 2002, all ships (and their ashore offices) have to be certified under the International Safety Management Code (ISM Code) and the crew has to work in accordance with the safety Management System (SMS). The SMS is a set of rules, describing in detail how to use safety gear.

Courses and regular drills are held in order to ensure that the crew is safety-conscious. The crew is trained to use the right equipment in case of emergency. Regulations concerning safety on ships are formulated by the IMO department called the Marine safety Committee (MSC), responsible for the SOLAS Convention (Convention for Safety of Life At Sea).

Lifesaving Appliances:

Lifeboats have to be installed on each side of the ship, each capable of accommodating everybody on board. Alternatively a freefall lifeboat maybe installed on the stern, large enough to accommodate the whole crew and passengers. If there are lifeboats on both sides, one boat is designated as “man over board boat”, or rescue boat. On passenger ships, there must be capacity for each person on board with 50% on each side. Every lifeboat must have a diesel engine, started by batteries and backed up with a manual start.

Life rafts: Inflatable life rafts are located on each side for the whole complement. A normal cargo ship with lifeboats has the “throw overboard” type raft which needs to be connected to the ship by a line and sea fastened with a band and closed by a hydrostatic release.

Life jackets are provided for everybody on board. They must have a light and whistle. They are usually stored in the cabins, but sometimes in boxes near the lifeboats. Also a few life jackets are stored where people work – engine room, bridge, etc. Furthermore a life jacket has to hold an unconscious person who is face down in the water, upright and has to keep his mouth 12 cm above the water level. In case of children on board, special smaller life jackets need to be provided. Inflatable life jackets need to have 2 air chambers and must be serviced every year.

A number of Life buoys, depending on the ship’s length are positioned around the vessel and hooked on the handrails. Some are provided with a light and/or line. On both bridge wings there has to be a life buoy, that when released, drops by gravity in to the sea. Attached to these buoys are a floating smoke light and a light signal.

As of July 2006, everybody on board a cargo ship, including bulk carriers, has to have an immersion suit. An immersion suit has to be worn together with a life jacket. The insulating quality of the immersion suits has to be such that the body temperature does not drop more than 2 degrees Celsius after 6 hours in water with a temperature between 0 and 2 degrees Celsius.

To work professionally with all equipment, the ship’s crew needs to be educated and everyone must have certificate of competency. This certificate can only be obtained when the individual is in possession of the proper diplomas, sufficient sea service and a number of certificates obtained after fulfilling certain safety courses.