Lifejackets: Performance capacities and elements

As we saw in our last post regarding lifejackets, they are the most known appliance for saving our life. Since they were invented in 1854, this device for keeping us afloat at sea has changed very much.

Last week we saw that the Code that regulates how Lifejackets must be constructed is the Life Saving Appliances Code (best known as LSA Code). On this Code we saw the construction requirements for lifejackets and how are lifejackets classified.

This week, using the LSA Code, we will answer the following questions:

  • Performance capacities of lifejackets.
  • Elements on a lifejacket.

Performance capacities of lifejackets

According to the Code, a Lifejacket will lift our mouth out of the water even if we are exhausted or unconscious. Also, if we have passed out or if we are close to and we are unlucky enough to end face-downed, the lifejacket itself will turn our body.

When I was taking for my first time the basic safety certificate course, during practice, I remember I said myself “Ok, regulation must be true so, let’s try” and I turned with my face on the water I act like if I was dead… in a few seconds I was already turned face-up. Awesome. So I can tell you, this thing works (in case you had doubts).

Of course, the lifejacket will also maintain us in that face-up position while waves hit us without being necessary for us to do anything special, being possible to remain in the fetal position 

In case of the lifejackets for children and infants, besides the requirements we have told already, there will be some exceptions like in the case of the donning where it will be possible to require assistance to put the lifejacket on.

In addition, the requirements for a lifejacket are flexible when we are speaking of an infant or child lifejacket because, according to the Code, it prevails the facilitation of being rescued, being secured to a caretaker, keep the user as drier as possible and permitting the caretaker to control hear loss on the children or infant.

Elements on a lifejacket

  • The method of securing the lifejacket to the wearer has quick and positive means of closure that do not require tying of knots.
  • Each lifejacket shall be provided with means of securing a light as specified in the Code.
  • Each lifejacket shall be fitted with a whistle firmly secured by lanyard.
  • Lifejacket lights and whistles shall be selected and secured to the lifejacket in such a way that their performance in combination is not degraded.
  • A lifejacket shall be provided with a releasable buoyant line or other means to secure it to a lifejacket worn by another person in the water.
  • A lifejacket shall be provided with a suitable means to allow a rescuer to lift the wearer from the water into a survival craft or rescue boat.


The Marine Environment Protection Committee

We saw on the last post that along with the Maritime Safety Committee, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC from now on) are the most important OMI’s Committees since they are in charge of the most important tasks in the Organization.

If the MSC was in charge of the Safety at sea, this Committee is in charge of the protection of the seas, avoiding and controlling pollution from ships.

Who forms it?

As happens in the MSC, this Committee is open to all members of the IMO.

In my opinion the fact that all members are part of the Committee is a good thing even though coming to terms about something can be really difficult sometimes.

As we will see, Assembly and Council are form by elected members and they change after a few years. But implement this structure in all committees could be messy with so many elections being carried out.

What are they in charge of?

Although MARPOL 73/78 was approved by the Assembly, circulars and resolutions about this Code and about pollution prevention at sea belongs to the MEPC.

An example of those resolutions we can mention the Resolution MEPC.282(70) about the SEEMP


The MSC and the MEPC don’t work alone. They count with the assistance of a number of sub-committees (SC from now on) which is also open to all member states.

  • SC on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW).
  • SC on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III).

The focus on the certification, survey, casualties and Port State Control. They also help to Member States with their difficulties in the implementation and enforcement of IMO.

  • SC on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR).
  • SC on Pollution Prevention Response (PPR).
  • SC on Ship Design and Construction (SDC).
  • SC on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE).
  • SC on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC).

The Maritime Safety Committee

As we saw on the last post, the IMO have several committees. Five of them are considered the main ones, while the others are called sub-committees.

The Maritime Safety Committee is, along with the Maritime Environment Protection Committee, the most important committee of the IMO due to the task they are in charge of.

Since the IMO was created, the main aim of it was the maritime safety, and this function was assigned to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC from now on).

Who forms it?

All members of the IMO can be members of the MSC. So on each session, all members of the Organization can participate for implement changes on the codes or approving new ones.

What are they in charge of?

If you have ever studied something related with safety at sea or read an International Code published by the IMO, for sure you would have find a statement similar to this one: “Amended by resolution MSC.XXX(YY)”. Well, this “MSC” means that this was approved by the Committee we are speaking about here.

Even though this could sound logical, it is needed to point that this is the Committee that regulates the SOLAS Convention.

They are responsible for many resolutions as the resolution MSC. 353(92) regarding the ISM Code.

We will see all of them (and so other more) deeply here in further posts.

Please don’t think that the MSC only does resolutions, they also publish circulars. A circular is a document including information regarding safety. This won’t be exactly “mandatory” but, as we will see when we will analyze the ISM Code, would be added by regulations in some important documents maritime safety related (like the Safety Management Manual). An example of those circular can be the MSC. 1/ Circ.1578 “Guidelines on Safety During Abandon Ship Drills Using Lifeboats”.


To sum up, we can see that the MSC is responsible for all the amendments and many recommendations regarding safety at sea. That’s why the MSC is considered one of the most important committees in the IMO, and it is probably one of the busiest bodies inside the Organization

Lifejackets: Construction requirements and types

Lifejackets are the most known appliance for saving our life. Since they were invented in 1854, this device for keeping us afloat at sea has changed very much.

The Code that regulates how Lifejackets must be constructed is the Life Saving Appliances Code (best known as LSA Code). On this Code we will find all the questions we seek to solve in this post:

  • Construction requirements for lifejackets.
  • Types of lifejackets.

Construction requirements for lifejackets

The LSA Code, on its chapter II “Personal life-saving appliances”, section 2.2 “Lifejackets”, includes all the requirement for a standard lifejacket.

Regarding the construction requirements, we would find that, after one demonstration, everybody must be capable of putting this equipment on within a period of 1 min without assistance but, what is more interesting is that without any demonstration nor instruction, at least the 75% of the people who are not familiarized with this equipment, will be capable of putting it on in the same period of time.

Besides, even though there is only one way of fitting the lifejacket correctly, somebody who put it on inside-out won’t suffer any injures.

Logically it will be comfortable to wear and, in case it is necessary to jump into the water, you will be capable of doing it safely (this is, holding on to the lifejacket) from a height of at least 4.5 m.

Also, in case our lifejacket sets in fire or we spend many time at sea using it, there’s nothing to worry about because the requirements are, as follows:

  • A lifejacket shall not sustain burning or melting after being totally enveloped in a fire for a period of 2 s (
  • An adult lifejacket shall allow the person wearing it to swim a short distance and to board a survival craft (
  • A lifejacket shall have buoyance which is not reduced by more than 5% after 24hours submersion in fresh water (

Types of lifejackets

Lifejacket marking Infant Child Adult
Weight (kg) Less than 15 15 or more but less than 43 43 or more
Height (cm) Less than 100 100 or more but less than 155 155 or more

Exist a type of Lifejacket known as XXL Lifejacket, but the Code is not contemplated it directly. The Code says:

“If an adult lifejacket is not designed to fit persons weighing up to 140 Kg and with chest girth of up to 1750 mm, suitable accessories shall be available to allow it to be secured to such persons” (

If the Lifejacket doesn’t say the opposite, we can assume that it is designed to fill the prescription on

Will all this construction requirements, it is logical to ask ourselves “ok but, what is capable of doing a Lifejacket?”


The IMO are the initials of the International Maritime Organization. This organism was created by the Organization of the United Nations in 1948 and it is in charge of the safety and security at sea and also of the environmental safety of the seas.

The number of Member States on the IMO is currently 172 (2017) and it also counts with 3 Associate Members.

What’s the difference between a member state and an associate member?

If we check the FAQs of the IMO webpage, we will find how to become a member of the IMO:

How can I become a member of the IMO?

“Only a country can become a Member of IMO.”

Then, what is an associate member?

If we see the Member list of the page, the 3 Associate Members are:

  • Faroes.
  • Hong Kong, China.
  • Macao, China.

The three of them have one thing in common, and it is that they are autonomous countries/territories, which depend on another sovereign state.

So, Associate Members will be those territories that depend on a sovereign state which is a Member of the IMO.

This concept can be described in the Convention on the International Maritime Organization (IMO), part 3, article 8:

 “Article 8

Any Territory or group of Territories to which the Convention has been made applicable under Article 72, by the Member having responsibility for its international relations or by the United Nations, may become an Associate Member of the Organization by notification in writing given by such Member or by the United Nations, as the case may be, to the Secretary General of the United Nations.”

What is the structure of the IMO?

The Organization consists of an Assembly, a Council, five main committees and a number of sub-committees for supporting the work of the main committees.

Those main committees are:

  • The Maritime Safety Committee.
  • The Marine Environment Protection Committee.
  • The Legal Committee.
  • The Technical Cooperation Committee.
  • The Facilitation Committee.

Officer’s Log: Vessel on anchorage with poor visibility

While I was on anchorage, in a situation with strong rain, the visibility was less than a mile. For this reason, I decided to inform captain about the situation and I called him to his Office.

Captain came to the bridge and evaluated the situation. Then, testing me, he asked me which was the signal for a vessel on anchorage on a poor visibility situation. That question was a tramp in case you haven’t realized it yet.

I answered without hesitation that we should put a signal that, on intervals on not more than 2 minutes, will sound with one short blast, one long blast and another short blast, but, if we go to the COLREG’s rule 35 (g), we can read:

A vessel at anchor shall at intervals of not more than one minute ring the bell rapidly for about 5 seconds. In a vessel of 100 m or more in length the bell shall be sounded in the forepart of the vessel and immediately after the ringing of the bell the gong shall be sounded rapidly for about 5 seconds in the after part of the vessel. A vessel at anchor may in addition sound three blasts in succession, namely one short, one prolonged and one short blast, to give warning of her position and of the possibility of collision to an approaching vessel.

Lesson learned: Blasts is only if a vessel is approaching, it is not necessary to put them if you are alone, you will only get yourself killed by your crew mates because they cannot sleep. Keep the bell ringing sounding and a sharp lookout on AIS, RADAR and by eyesight and only put blasts when needed.

How to calculate the swinging circle for a ship on anchorage

The idea of this post came to my mind while I was on anchorage as 2/O on board the M/F Al Andalus Express. Who knows, maybe while you are reading it I’m still on anchorage.

On board we had one ECDIS equipment capable of create an anchor watch zone, but this was so simple that you only needed to put the radius of the circle of watch and that is. Seeing this I remembered when, while I was cadet on the M/T Petroport I had to make the calculation of the swinging circle of the ship on paper charts. I still remember that was the 2/O Rubén who taught me how to do this.

This calculation is quite simple but, for doing it properly we will need a some information.

The first date is really easy to get. It is the Length overall of the vessel, which you can get, for example, from the pilot card.

The next one is the rode. This is defined as:

The anchor line, rope or cable connecting the anchor chain to the vessel

It can sound a little tricky, isn’t it? But I can show you a little trick to get it, with only two positions.

  1. You need to note the exact position of the place where you drop the anchor.
  2. You need to note the exact position where, after dropping the anchor, your vessel is considered to be on anchorage.

Once you have those two positions, you can put them in your chart and get the distance between them.

After the rode you need to get the Depth, which is easy to get using the sounder or the charts.

Finally, you’ll need to know your freeboard.

With all that information, and being sure that you have all of them in the proper units, you only need to put them in the next formula:

Swinging circle = L.O.A+\sqrt{Rode^2-(Depth+Freeboard)^2}