34 Essential Lifeboat Equipment Items According to SOLAS

by | Last updated Nov 24, 2023 | Equipment, Lifesaving, Maritime Safety | 0 comments

When it comes to emergency situations at sea, a properly equipped lifeboat can be the difference between life and death.

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) sets the standard for lifeboat equipment as well as safety items required on board ships.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the 34 essential equipment that SOLAS mandates for all lifeboat types. By complying with these regulations, your vessel will be adequately equipped to handle any emergency situation that may arise.

What is a lifeboat?

A lifeboat is a small, rigid watercraft that is carried on board a ship and used to evacuate crew and passengers in the event of an emergency. 

When worse comes to worst, it serves as a last resort to abandon the ship. Therefore, its readiness is constantly maintained by the ship’s crew, even when not in use. 

This necessitates regular checks and inspections of the boat and its equipment to ensure the survival of those on board while awaiting rescue.

Who checks the equipment inside the lifeboat?

Generally, the third officer is in charge of the inspection of the lifeboat and its equipment.

Any of the ship’s officers can do it as well, but it is assigned to the third mate since he is also in charge of other lifesaving equipment.

Aside from the officers and crew, other external parties also have the mandate to inspect and check the boat.

They include the Coast Guards, Port State Control Officers, vetting inspectors, and even the ship’s superintendents.

If one of its equipment is missing, expired, or broken especially the critical ones, they have the power to detain the vessel until such deficiency is rectified.

This alone emphasizes the importance of lifeboat equipment.

An orange lifeboat for cruise ships navigating on calm waters.
Image: Lachlan Gowen | Unsplash.

Equipment specifications according to SOLAS

According to SOLAS, all items of lifeboat equipment shall be secured by lashings, placed in lockers or compartments, stored in brackets or similar mounting arrangements, or other suitable means.

If you haven’t been inside one before, you might be surprised at how efficiently every space is utilized. 

Loose items are secured, and there are even compartments located beneath the deck where additional accessories are stored.

Lastly, all items of lifeboat equipment shall be as small and of as little mass as possible and shall be packed in a suitable and compact form.

34 lifeboat equipment your ship must have

Similar to the equipment found in liferaft, those in lifeboats are also classified into three. 

SOLAS didn’t actually explicitly have that category, but to remember them easily, I categorized them into four, namely:

  • Survival equipment
  • Communications/ Signaling equipment
  • Navigational equipment, and
  • Boat kits

Let’s tackle them one by one and discover which lifeboat equipment falls into each category.

Survival equipment

Used by crew members to survive during their stay on the boat.

  1. a survival manual;
  2. a rustproof dipper with a lanyard;
  3. a rustproof graduated drinking vessel;
  4. a food ration totaling not less than 10,000 kJ for each person;
  5. water in 0.5L/bag with expiry dates;
  6. a first-aid kit in a waterproof case;
  7. anti-seasickness medicine sufficient for at least 48 hours and one seasickness bag for each person;
  8. three tin openers or can opener;
  9. two buoyant rescue quoits, attached to not less than 30 m of buoyant line;
  10. one set of fishing tackle;
  11. thermal protective aids (TPA) complying with the requirements of section 2.5 sufficient for 10% of the number of persons the lifeboat is permitted to accommodate or two, whichever is the greater. If your ship has 32 crew, then 10% is 3.2. You must have at least 4 TPAs.
  12. rain water collector: 2×5 liter capacity container contained with 1 unit of flexible hose to collect rainwater (1 set);
  13. rope ladder;
A food ration with the brand Seven Oceans is part of lifeboat equipment stored inside the boat.
Food rations are an essential part in the lifeboat equipment list.

Communications/ Signaling equipment

An important component to get the attention of possible rescuers or other ships passing nearby, whether by day or night.

  1. four rocket parachute flares;
  2. six hand flares;
  3. two buoyant smoke signals;
  4. one waterproof electric torch suitable for Morse signaling together with one spare set of batteries and one spare bulb in a waterproof container;
  5. one daylight signaling mirror with instructions for its use for signaling to ships and aircraft;
  6. one copy of the life-saving signals (signaling card) in a waterproof card or in a waterproof container;
  7. one whistle or equivalent sound signal;
  8. an efficient radar reflector, unless a survival craft radar transponder is stowed in the lifeboat;
  9. a searchlight with a horizontal and vertical sector of at least 6° and a measured luminous intensity of 2500 cd (candela) which can work continuously for not less than 3h;

Navigational equipment

Sometimes, the ship needs to make headway and reach its desired destination, or simply stay as close to the shipwreck.

  1. an operational compass that is luminous or provided with suitable means of illumination. In a totally enclosed lifeboat, the compass shall be permanently fitted at the steering position; in any other lifeboat, it shall be provided with a binnacle if necessary to protect it from the weather, and suitable mounting arrangements;
  2. a sea anchor of adequate size fitted with a shock-resistant hawser which provides a firm hand grip when wet. The strength of the sea anchor, hawser, and tripping line if fitted shall be adequate for all sea conditions;
An orange sea anchor or drogue deployed in the sea.
A drogue or sea anchor. Image: Ed Dunens, via Wikimedia Commons.

Boat kits

Boat kits are equipment that are normally used for the lifeboat itself.

  1. sufficient buoyant oars to make headway in calm seas;
  2. two boat hooks; (secured in the boat);
  3. a buoyant bailer and two buckets; (placed in the equipment tank);
  4. two efficient painters of a length equal to not less than twice the distance from the stowage position of the lifeboat to the waterline in the lightest seagoing condition or 15 m, whichever is the greater;
  5. Lifeboat Maintenance and Engine Manual;
  6. two hatchets, one at each end of the lifeboat (axe);
  7. a jack-knife attached to the boat using a lanyard;
  8. if the lifeboat is not automatically self-bailing, a manual pump suitable for effective bailing;
  9. Engine Repair Toolkit – sufficient tools for minor adjustments to the engine and its accessories;
  10. portable fire-extinguishing equipment of an approved type suitable for extinguishing oil fires.

Other extras

Those listed above are the minimum requirements according to the SOLAS Convention

Flag States, class societies, or even the captain, at his discretion, may add more to their lifeboat equipment arsenal to increase the odds of survival.

  1. portable VHF radios;
  2. extra pyrotechnics;
  3. SART;
  4. EPIRB;
  5. warm clothes and blankets;
  6. bottled water;
  7. extra provisions;
  8. inventory list;
  9. crew list;

May the winds be in your favor.



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