Man Overboard Drills on Ships

Man Overboard (MOB) drills are a cornerstone of maritime safety training, equipping seafarers with the skills and knowledge to efficiently respond to emergencies involving individuals falling overboard. Grounded in various international maritime regulations and conventions, such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), these drills serve to enhance overall maritime safety and emergency preparedness.


 Objectives of such a drill :

  1. Prompt Response: MOB drills aim to instil a quick, coordinated, and effective response among the crew members. The immediate action of sounding the alarm, notifying the bridge, and initiating search and rescue operations are emphasized, as stipulated in the SOLAS and STCW conventions.
  2. Recovery Operations: The drills practice various methods for retrieving a person from the water, utilizing equipment and techniques mandated by SOLAS and MARPOL to ensure environmental protection during recovery operations.
  3. Coordination and Communication: Ensuring seamless coordination among different roles and optimizing communication lines are essential, as outlined in the ISM Code. Every crew member should be well-acquainted with their responsibilities and the overall MOB procedure.

There are also Key Elements to be regarded for conducting these drills:

  • Alarm and Initial Actions: Immediate action is critical. The crew is trained to sound the alarm, communicate the situation to the bridge, and mark the MOB’s last known position using smoke markers, lifebuoys, or the ship’s GPS coordinates, according to SOLAS guidelines.
  • Maneuvering and Search: Crew members practice various ship maneuvering techniques, such as the Williamson Turn and Scharnow Turn, to navigate back to the MOB location efficiently. The search pattern and approach are conducted as per the guidelines of the STCW Convention.
  • Retrieval and First Aid: The drills include the use of lifesaving equipment and specialized MOB recovery devices. Once the person is retrieved, immediate medical attention is provided, following the first aid protocols established by SOLAS and the STCW Convention.
  • Environmental Considerations: Throughout the drill, environmental protection measures, as outlined in the MARPOL Convention, are adhered to, ensuring minimal impact on the marine environment.


Frequency , Documentation, and Evaluation

As mandated by SOLAS, MOB drills are conducted at least once every month. These exercises involve all crew members, ensuring realistic scenarios and comprehensive training.  Detailed documentation of each drill is maintained as per the ISM Code, recording the specifics of the drill, participants, observations, corrective actions, and areas for improvement. This documentation is crucial for continual assessment and enhancement of emergency response protocols.

Post-drill evaluations are conducted to identify areas of improvement and refine the MOB procedures. Feedback is collected, and amendments are made in compliance with the ISM Code, ensuring a cycle of continuous improvement and adherence to the highest safety standards. Man Overboard drills on ships are pivotal in fostering a safety-conscious environment and ensuring preparedness for emergencies at sea. By adhering to international conventions and codes such as SOLAS,  ISM, and STCW, ships demonstrate a steadfast commitment to safeguarding lives and promoting maritime safety. Regular drills, thorough documentation, and continuous improvement are the hallmarks of an effective MOB procedure, aiming to minimize risks and optimize response times in critical situations.



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