Respond to Emergencies



Rescue of Persons from a Vessel in Distress or from a Wreck

A ship proceeding for a rescue operation should during the time it arrives at the position prepare itself for the rescue.

The searchlights should be checked. Boarding nets should be made of cargo slings and other strong netting available and this should be prepared on the ship side (not lowered as yet).

Boat ropes should be laid on both sides of the ship.

The rescue boats should be emptied of all unnecessary things – like provisions and excess water. The boats should be stocked with extra rescue quoits, life jackets, immersion suits, blankets, warm beverages, towels etc. – things that may be useful for a person lifted out of the water.

The searchlight on the boat should be checked and a extra set taken from other boats supply – including the batteries.

W/T sets with spare batteries should be taken, the SART should be ready for mounting.

The rescue ship once it reaches the position of the disabled ship should turn around and allow a lee to be made for launching the rescue boats. Once the boats are away the ship is to steam and lie to windward of the rescue boats so that the rescue boat after picking up the survivors has a downwind travel to the rescue ship.

Oil should be used to quell the seas between the two ships and the oil should be streamed from forward so that the entire ship area would be spread evenly. If possible both the ships should spread the oil thus the area in between the ships would have a quelled and calm sea.

The boats should pick up the survivors from the sea allowing the survivors to swim to the boat – by being down wind of the survivors. As the first persons are taken in they should be asked as to how many had jumped into the water this would give a better chance for survival for the others.

The rescue ship meanwhile should lower the nets and the boat ropes and lower pilot ladders and safety lines to the water level so that any survivor in the water and around the ship would be able to clamber up. The searchlights should be trained into the sea if at night.

The rescue boat after a few survivors are picked up may come alongside and disembark the survivors and then go back to look for others.

If the disabled ship is a wreck and if the boat cannot approach the ship then a line is to be tossed to the ship tied to a lifebuoys at the centre of the line.

The survivors are to attach themselves to this line and should get down with the help of a pilot ladder or other ladder and then haul themselves along the main rope resting if required at the lifebuoy.

If a ladder is not possible them the survivors are to jump into the water keeping the lifeline attached to the main rescue line and the above procedure then may be effected.

Once the survivors have been all picked up the boat is to come alongside on the lee side of the rescue ship. The ship should provide the lee and until such is done the rescue boat may wait. The survivors should be helped to board the rescue ship by pilot ladders and with safety lines attached.

Once the survivors are aboard the rescue boat is to be picked up. All along the rescue boat is to hold on to the boat ropes rigged especially for them.

If the sea is too rough to launch boats then a breeches buoy would have to be rigged between the two ships and the survivors taken on board. If there are people in the water then the ship should stand a distance away and wait for the survivors to come to the nets. Engines are not to be used. However this method would be difficult since the survivors would have to get on the windward side.

Emergencies in Port


Fire-Fighting Equipment Plans

Fire-fighting equipment plans must be permanently displayed in prominent positions showing clearly, for each deck, the location and particulars of all fire-fighting equipment, dampers, controls, etc. These plans should also be displayed, or be readily available, at the access points to the ship when it is in port. This would help the shore fire fighting personnel from gauging the requirement of the fire fighting equipment that would be required.

Preliminary Action

The person who discovers the emergency must raise the alarm and pass on information about the situation to the officer on duty who, in turn, must alert the emergency organisation. While this is being done, those on the scene should attempt immediate measures to control the emergency until the emergency organisation takes effect.

Each group in the emergency organisation should have a designated assembly point, as should those persons not directly involved as members of any group. Personnel not directly involved should stand by to act as required.

The ship must then raise the alarm by sounding the recognised alarm signal consisting of a series of long blasts on the ship’s whistle, each blast being not less than 10 seconds in duration, unless the terminal has notified the ship of some other locally recognised alarm signal. All cargo, bunkering, or ballasting operations must be stopped and the main engines and steering gear brought to a stand by condition.

Once the alarm has been raised, responsibility for fighting the fire on board the ship will rest with the master or other responsible officer assisted by the ship’s crew. The same emergency organisation should be used as when the ship is at sea with an additional group under the command of an officer or senior rating to make preparations, where possible, for preparing the vessel for sea.

On mobilisation of the terminal and, where applicable, the civil fire-fighting forces and equipment, the master or other responsible officer, in conjunction with the professional fire fighters, must make a united effort to bring the fire under control. A pilot ladder should be put over on the offshore side.

Ship’s Fire Alarm Signal

At a terminal the sounding of the ship’s fire alarm system should be supplemented by a series of long blasts on the ship’s whistle, each blast being not less than 10 seconds in duration, or by some other locally required signal.

Action by Vessels at Other Berths

On hearing the port alarm being sounded or on being otherwise advised of a fire at the berth, a ship whose berth is not involved in the fire should shut down all cargo, bunkering and ballasting operations; bring her fire-fighting capability to a state of readiness; and make engines, steering gear and mooring equipment ready for immediate use.

If the fire is not brought under control within a short time or if the danger exists of the hazardous cargo catching fire or if there is danger of the ship listing and sinking, the ship should cast off and put out to sea.


Ship’s personnel who discover an outbreak of fire must immediately raise the alarm, indicating the location of the fire. The ship’s fire alarm must be operated as soon as possible.

Personnel in the vicinity of the fire should apply the nearest suitable extinguishing agent to attempt to limit the spread of the fire, to extinguish it, and thereafter to prevent re-ignition. If they are unsuccessful, their actions should very quickly be superseded by the operation of the ship’s emergency plan.

Any cargo, ballast, tank cleaning or bunkering operations should be stopped immediately and all hatches closed. Any craft alongside should be removed.

After all personnel have been evacuated from the vicinity, all doors, and openings should be closed as quickly as possible and mechanical ventilation should be stopped. Decks, bulkheads and other structures in the vicinity of the fire, and adjacent hatches which may contain hazardous cargoes, should be cooled with water.

The ship should be manoeuvred so as to resist the spread of the fire and allow it to be attacked from windward.

Action to take from colliding with a vessel dragging her anchor

If at anchor in an open roadstead and it is observed that the ship ahead is dragging anchor and it is determined that there is a chance of a collision then depending on the distance between the ships the following may be undertaken:

Ship at some distance away, the main engine should readied and the anchor heaved short so that dredging with the anchor would be possible. The engines should go astern with the rudder used to give a shear, this would make the own ship move away from the line of the dragging ship.

If the time does not permit such a move then the cable may be buoyed and slipped from the bitter end. The main engines then being used to fall back.

Assisting a Vessel in Distress

Much before arrival at the scene the two ships should have established communication and should have agreed on the arrangements for the tow and the equipment that would be required.

Once at the scene the rescue ship should slacken her speed to just about 3-4 knots and slowly approach the disabled ship from stern and on her (disabled ship) starboard side. The distance should be adjusted to about 2 ship lengths – athwartship at the beginning of the manoeuvre. Once the bow of the rescue ship has reached the midship of the disabled ship the rocket should be fired – the distance would be closing in if there is any drift of the disable ship. The rescue ship would have taken all way off and drifting.

Once the rocket is received on board – a 24 mm rope would be passed from the rescue ship this would have to be taken in by the disabled ship. The rope ends would now be taken to the fore end of the disabled ship and to the after end of the rescue ship.

The rescue ship could now pass a wire rope strong for hauling a length of the disabled ships cable. Once this is received on the disabled ship, one length of her cable should be attached to the wire and a towing wire should be attached to this cable. The wire with the cable would be heaved up on the rescue ships stern, the cable would be partly out of the fairlead. The cable would now be lashed to several bitts.

The disabled ship would now cut off the towing line and make an eye and then attach another length of cable to the new eye and the rest of the towing line would be attached to the other end of the cable. This done the wire and cable would be lowered. The length of towing wire between the two lengths of cable being noted only that length of wire would be sent after the second length of cable. Once this is done the free end of the towing wire would be attached to the cable on deck – through the chain stopper. The vessels would now be arranged for towing.

The cable that had been passed to the rescue ship and which lay within the fairlead would prevent any chafing damage that would have occurred to a towing wire had it been passed.

Thus the total arrangement would be as – cable – wire – cable – wire – cable.

The cable attached at the centre of the wire acts as a shock absorber by forming a catenary in the water.



While paying out any cable or wire the same has to be done under control. It would be prudent to pass the towing wire from a winch under power. The towing wire if it is not carried on a power winch should be transferred to a power winch.

The connections to the cable should be with shackles, the eye of the wire should be inserted into the shackle. The clearances should be checked to see that the cable or the shackle does not rub against the wire eye.

The cables at either of the ship should be lashed to several bitts. The disabled ship if possible may stopper the cable.

The wire and the cable connections should be checked for any wear down.

In general the fairlead or the cable passing through the fairlead would not wear down

A man should be stationed continuously on both vessels to check up on the towing arrangement and the ships should communicate all navigation data.

The towed ship should be steered as this would effect a lesser drag on the arrangement, by preventing too much yaw by the towed ship.

Prior casting off – the master of the towing ship should obtain an assurance from the master of the towed ship to the effect that he is satisfied that his vessel has been brought to a place of safety.

The towing ship should very slowly reduce speed such that the towed ship does not overtake the towing ship.

Once the speed drops to less than a knot the towed ship should anchor, the towing ship should be careful of not going astern on the engines as the propeller would not be clear.

The towing ship should also anchor since her speed would also be about zero.

The towing ship would now have to cast off the towing arrangement. The cable end is secured to a wire (of adequate strength) and the wire would be hove on a winch. The cable now would be unlashed from the bitts one at a time the slack on the cable lying on deck being taken up. Once the last of the lashings is cast off the cable would have to be pushed out of the fairlead. The wire would hold the weight and pay out as the cable is lowered, once the cable is completely out the wire would be held and a chain stopper would be taken on the cable last link; and the winch wire cast off. Lastly the chain stopper would be released letting the cable arrangement to fall into the water. The towed vessel would pick up the arrangement.

Emergency Towing Arrangement – for tankers greater than 50,000 tonnes deadweight

Ready Availability of Towing Arrangements

The aft emergency towing arrangement should be pre-rigged and be capable of being deployed in a controlled manner in harbour conditions in not more than 15 minutes.


The forward emergency towing arrangement should be capable of being deployed in harbour conditions in not more than one hour.

Strength of the Towing Components

Towing components should have a working strength of at least 1,000 kn.. for tankers of 20,000 dwt and over but less than 50,000 dwt and at least 2,000 kn.. for tankers of 50,000 dwt and over (working strength is defined as one half ultimate strength).

Length of Towing Pennant

The towing pennant should have a length of at least twice the lightest seagoing ballast freeboard at the fairlead plus 50 meters.

Length of Chafing Chain (ETA chain)

The chafing chain shall extend from the strongpoint to a point at least three meters beyond the fairlead.

Requirements for Implementation of IMO Resolution

An emergency towing arrangement shall be fitted at both ends on board all tankers of 20,000 dwt and above

The emergency towing arrangement on the towed vessel should be rigged within 1 hour in harbour conditions. The arrangement aft of the towing vessel which is pre-rigged should be capable of being rigged in 15 minutes by one person sending out the pendant. Both the above conditions are for harbour conditions.

The arrangement and the deployment is shown pictorially in the following figures:

Aft – to rig in harbour conditions in 15 mins. – Equipment towing wire on drum with steel disc stopper, messenger with S.I. Light contained in steel box:

Forward – to rig in harbour conditions in 1 hour – Equipment 1 short length of chain and bow stopper: