Cruise Ship Lifeboats

Ever since I took a cruise to Bermuda from New York, I always wondered how we would survive if we had a problem on the cruise ship and used the Life Boats. Would there be food and medical supplies on board and enough to survive? What is inside modern cruise ship lifeboats?

Modern Life Boats, whose mandatory contents are regulated & inspected by SOLAS are driven by a diesel engine & come equipped with emergency equipment, pyrotechnics, air supply, hand flairs, pure drinking H2O, and food rations, tools & a compass.

I once went on a cruise and found myself on the top-level trying to sneak a peek into one. The Life Boats were harnessed on the top level of the ship and were hanging over the side. There were Life Rafts along with the Lifeboats and crew members were not allowed to go on them told me they were very important in the role of the ship’s safety inspections that were done regularly.

Throughout the world, the International Convention For The Safety Of Life At Sea or SOLAS  is an International Maritime Safety Treaty that sets all standards for Cruise Ships. One of the most important agreements in the regulations regarding Life Boats and Passenger/Crew drills that are performed before each trip.

The regulations require that each side of the Ship have enough accommodations for 37.5 % of the total number of persons on board. Meaning passengers and crew members. That is 75% in total. Inflatable or ridged Liferafts must accommodate the remaining 25% of passengers and crew.

Many Cruise Ships like the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas carry more boat capacity than is required. But it is still not enough, so Liferafts are added in, to accommodate all total capacity even if a significant number of lifeboats have some difficulty in the event of an emergency.

For international voyages, the Cruise Ship has to have enough Life Boat capacity, but for shorter voyages, they might not. they are required to have 125 % capacity using Life Boats and Liferafts. So all Cruise Ships will have, by law what they term LSA or Life Saving Appliances for the total capacity of 125% of all the people on board. 



Life Raft Equipment


Liferafts are collapsible and stored in a heavy-duty fiberglass canister. They contain high-pressure gas that will automatically inflate the raft. SOLAS and the Military regulation require the gas and the Liferaft to be sealed.

The Liferaft can never be opened or tampered with by the crew or any personnel for the Cruise Line. The Gas has to be sent out to be inspected at the facility periodically. On-site inspections certify all mandatory equipment on the Boats and ensure that all the required contents are there.

Modern Life Boats have motors but liferafts will not. Larger Life Boats will use a launching System. There may be multiple Life Boats on one System. They normally require a human to launch. Life Boat Launching will normally take longer and have a higher risk of failing due to a human factor. The Life Boats don’t have inflation system failures but the Inflatable Life rafts do.

Ships engaged in International Voyages must have partially or totally enclosed Life Boats. for 50% of the total capacity of the people on board at each side. That means 100% Ridged or Inflatable Liferafts for at least 25 % of the people on board.

Ships engaged in Short International Voyages must have Partially or enclosed Life Boats for 30% of the total capacity of people on board. Plus the number of Life rafts necessary to obtain a total of 100% Rigid or Inflatable Liferafts for a total of 25% of the total number of people on board the Cruise Ship.

Free Fall Lifeboat


  Freefall Life Boats are used to provide a fast escape for a crew who is in danger. When a Captain gives the crew the call to the abandoned ship, the Crew and Ship’s personnel enter the Boat and secure themselves to the seats with belts, and close and secure the hatch of the boat.

When the hatch is closed the bolt is released and dropped to the sea together with the ship’s personnel inside the covered craft. The boats also have a diesel engine that will allow the crew to steer themselves away to a safe location.

Freefall lifeboats that are mounted on offshore platforms and tankers are fire-protected and they are made to be airtight and to drive right through the flames of a burning sea disaster,

They are equipped with a pump that will spray seawater over the vessel to protect it from fire and a pressurized air tank that will supply air to the engines during the passage on the ocean.

Freefall Life Boats are used for their capability to launch instantly and are highly reliable during the escape,  Since 2006 they are required on bulk carriers and tankers that are in danger of sinking too rapidly for conventional lifeboats to be released.


Complete Updated List of Mandatory Lifeboat Contents

Except for free-fall lifeboats, sufficient buoyant oars, so as to make headway in calm seas.
Boat hooks = Two
One buoyant bailer and two buckets.
Survival manual = One
Operational magnetic compass = One
Sea Anchor = One
Efficient painters = Two (Length should be twice the distance from the storage position to the waterline in the lightest seagoing condition or 15 meters whichever is greater.)
Hatchets = Two

Watertight receptacles containing 3 liters of water for each person the boat is permitted to accommodate.
Rustproof dipper with lanyard = One
Rustproof graduated drinking vessel = One
Food ration totaling not less than 10,000 KJoule per person.
Rocket parachute flares = Four
Hand flares = Six
Buoyant Smoke Signals = Two
Waterproof electric torch, suitable for morse code with spare battery = One
Daylight Signalling mirror = One
Copy of life-saving signals = One
Whistle = One
= One

Anti-sea-sickness medicine = 6 doses for each person the boat is permitted to accommodate.
Sea-sickness bag = 1 for each person the boat is permitted to accommodate.
Jack Knife = One
Tin Openers = Three
Buoyant rescue quoits = Two
If the lifeboat is not self-bailing then one
= One set
Sufficient tools for minor adjustments.
Portable fire extinguishing equipment.
Search Light = One
= One
Thermal Protective Aids = 10 % of the number of people the boat is permitted to accommodate or Two, whichever is greater.

What is a Muster Drill


Every single passenger on the cruise ship must also take part in a mandatory safety drill or “muster” before the ship set sail. The muster involves learning how to locate and wear your life jacket, and how to get to the escape routes. In the drill, the crew will tell you where to find your Life Boat. Life Boats are arranged according to where your rooms are located on the ship. If you have ever been on a Cruise Ship no matter how big or small you will remember this drill and try on your life jacket that is always too small.

This drill is required by international law established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a branch of the United Nations.

The drill must take place within 24 hours of the ship leaving its first port and is also mandatory under CLIA’s policy. There are no exceptions. All cruise lines have to follow regulations called Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which were instituted following the sinking of the Titanic.

The Cruise Ships of today are governed by International Laws and are enforced by the Coast Guard. The ships have plenty of room for every passenger and crew member on board. The Life Boats and Life Rafts of today are safe and well equipped for spending countless hours on the high sea and protected by the dangerous elements that years ago during the day of the Titanic, would have been a risky venture.

Check this Life Raft that can be bought through my site on Amazon called Revere Offshore Commander 2.0 – 6 Valise Life Raft


For more informative articles on any topic related to Oceans or Water stay right here at MyWaterEarth&Sky-The ocean carries many mysteries like the phenomenon known as Red Tide which closes beaches down in the Gulf States and causes health hazards when the ocean water turns red, ……………….… Continue reading


JimGalloway Author/Editor


International Maritime Organization- IMO-Whats New

Cruise Critic-What is SOLAS 

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