Life Boat Engine Ceased- When Attempted To Start


LSA code and IMO requires that the Lifeboat engines should be capable of starting within 2 minutes at an ambient temperature of -15 degree Celsius.

The Sequence of Events:

A Product tanker was ready for Port state inspection in Latvia. The PSC Inspector expressed his interest in witnessing the proper operation of lifeboat engines. Ship’s Engineer along with PSC inspector entered the Fully enclosed lifeboat for testing the engines and all other accessories.

The Engineer checked all essential items including cooling water level and the oil level. The Lifeboat was having batteries for starting the engine.

As the Engine started – within a few seconds with an abnormal sound, the engine stopped. The Engine did not crank and it was found to be ceased. The vessel was detained until further investigation and corrective action.

What Went Wrong?

  1. The Ambient Temperature was minus 35 degree Celsius
  2. The Heater was enough only to maintain the cooling water in a warm state.
  3. The Engine Lubricating oil viscosity broke down at temperatures of minus 35 degree Celsius.
  4. Thus due to loss of Lube oil viscosity, the engine parts ceased.
  5. The Lifeboat engine maker did not specify any cold weather precautions for safe operation.
  6. The Lube oil used was generic engine oil and the grade was found unfit for use it Winter climates.
  7. The Engineer did ascertain the Oil level – but did not wipe the oil as re-check the level.
  8. The Engineer failed to ascertain the oil viscosity.


  1. SMS/Shipboard procedures should be updated and reviewed in consideration with winterization requirements.
  2. Lube oil and fuel oil properties need to be checked – based on the expected ambient temperature conditions.
  3. The Shipboard Engineers should be thinking beyond “Just Checking Oil Level”.

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  1. It is a good idea to install a safe atmosphere heating element in enclosed life boat. It will work well in sub zero atmospheric condition to keep the whole engine warm. Usually the life boat battery is kept on trickle charge from ship’s power supply. Same power source may be used to keep the lifeboat warmed .


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