Free-fall lifeboats offer a means to evacuate a ship or offshore installation rapidly, without the lowering operations associated with conventional davit launched lifeboats on wire falls. The performance of free-fall lifeboats during launch and sail-away has been investigated using a model test campaign. The main focus of the experimental evaluation was on the performance of this evacuation system in a range of different weather conditions. Measurements were also made of motions during the launch process, which are relevant to occupational safety issues. Examples of the tests are presented with a focus on results that warrant scrutiny in terms of human health and performance. The results lead us to question the IMO criteria used to assess the occupational safety of free-fall lifeboats.

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