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How to Handle an Emergency on a Ship

written by: Tarun Goel • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 10/12/2011

Preparing for and practicing responses for any shipboard emergency is a part of any ship's routine practices. Emergency measures adopted by mariners are discussed in detail in this article.

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    Emergency Preparedness in Case of Ship Accidents

    Whenever some incident of a serious or harmful nature happens suddenly, we classify it as an emergency. One of the most Warning important factors in dealing with an emergency situation, apart from a sharp mind and the control of respectful fear, is the presence of a solid action plan. This is a general rule that is applicable to all situations whether on board a ship in the middle of the ocean or in a crowded city port amidst a sea of people and machinery.

    Emergency situations on a ship tend to be more critical because ships are isolated, solitary floating objects moving in the vast and deep oceans. Since there are so many possible types of emergencies, it is necessary to know about both common and emergency essentials.

    Here we will take a look at the general procedures and plans to be followed in case of an emergency situation on board a ship.

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    Emergency Essentials - Types of Emergencies

    For effective usage of the limited emergency equipment available on board, all personnel must be aware of the location of firefighting gear and lifesaving appliances and be trained in their use. They must also be aware of the alarm signals, recognize them, and muster at the muster point in case of any type of emergency.

    The general alarm will be sounded in the event of:

    • Fire
    • Collision
    • Grounding
    • Cargo hose burst
    • Major leakage or spillage of oil cargo
    • Any other event which calls for emergency action

    Other alarms could include:

    • Engineer alarm for unmanned machinery spaces
    • Carbon dioxide alarm
    • Fire detector alarms
    • Cargo tank level alarms
    • Refrigerated store alarm

    If your ship's alarms are ringing, it does not necessarily mean that the situation is out of control. Alarms are warnings, which are sounded so that people onboard take the emergency measures like wearing their life jackets, or gathering at a common point, depending upon the type of emergency and instructions given to them.

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    Structure and Function of Emergency Response Teams

    The basic structure of any emergency team will usually comprise four sub-groups.

    • The Command Center
    • The Emergency Team
    • The Back Up Squad
    • The Technical Team

    Different sub-groups will do different tasks and coordinate with the other sub-groups.

    Functions of Emergency Team groups:

    The Command Center

    The command center will be located on bridge. The master is to take responsibility for the overall safety and navigation of the ship. All communications will be performed from here to the different teams as well as shore. A log must be maintained of all events.

    The Emergency Team

    The Emergency Team will have the front line job of tackling the emergency. In general the chief officer will lead the team for the emergency on deck while the 2nd engineer will take charge for engine room emergencies. The duties of each person will have to be laid down and practiced for every emergency so as to avoid duplication, confusion, and chaos.

    The Support Team

    The Support Team is to provide first aid and prepare the lifeboats for lowering. Should the above two function not be required, they should assist as directed.

    The Technical Team

    The Technical, or Engineer's, Team will maintain the propulsion and maneuvering capability of the ship and auxiliary services as far as is possible in the circumstances.

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    General Guidelines for Emergency Response

    All members of the technical staff must know all the ship emergency codes in detail. All members of the crew should receive appropriate training in accordance with their role at the time of emergency. Mr. Skylight, Mr. Mob, Code Blue, and Oscar are some of the ship emergency codes followed by mariners.

    On board passengers must be told about the possible dangers because otherwise the general public starts panicking.

    An understanding of the effects on the behavior of the ship of wind, current, shallow water, banks, and narrow channels is equally important so that the technical staff does the wise thing at the time of emergency. Closing of the watertight doors, fire doors, valves, scuppers, side-scuttles, skylights, portholes, and other similar openings in the ship is very important so that ocean water does not enter inside the ship.

    In case of abandoning the ship, all the passengers must be rescued first using life jackets and life boats, or shifting them to another ship. The staff members should be the last ones to leave the ship and that even only after ensuring that no one is left on the abandoned ship. Modern ships are equipped with hi-tech and advanced life saving tools and with the help of mobile communication devices, or can easily contact off-shore rescue teams.


Emergency Preparedness - Different Types of Emergency Situation On Board

Emergency response plan is important onboard the ship as this gives the duties and responsibility to be performed by crew members during the emergency situations on board. This series will give you the idea of different types of emergency situation on board the ship.
  1. How to Handle an Emergency on a Ship
  2. Ship Flooding Emergency Procedures
  3. Emergency Action Plan for Fire / Explosion On Ships

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