After the tragic death of a deckhand during the launching of a Personal Watercraft from a large yacht the methods of launching craft have been under scrutiny. Please see the download below to read the case studies.
The usual method of launching PWC from the upper decks of a Yacht are with the use of lifting slings as seen in this case study and in some cases, crew members board the PWCs during the lift to aid with the removal of the slings once launched. The potential issue with these slings is that they have the capability of sliding off the PWC if not 'perfectly' placed, stoppers can be used either side of the sling under the rubbing strake to reduce the possibility of this occuring.
Since this incident, risk assessments onboard vessels have been reviewed by Captains and Managing agents and many Yachts have adapted their practice.
One of the measures that has been implemented by some Yachts, is changing over from the previously used lifting slings as seen in the image above.
A practice that is becoming more common is a fixed system where metal plates are inserted on the inner skin at the bow of the PWC with pad eyes or lifting eyes on the outer hull. The combination of these and the D-rings on the rear or further pad eyes on the stern offer a four-point lift using an item such as Spectra© lines for lifting. The concept behind this system is valid however it is untested. Currently none of the 3 main manufacturers (Yamaha, Seadoo, Kawasaki) endorse this lifting system as the superstructure of the bow is not designed to take the weight of the PWC, it is simply fibreglass/FRP/GRP. Whilst looking at some ex-yacht PWCs that utilised this system, stress fractures and cracking were observed which goes further to highlighting the risks.
This issue is exacerbated by the fact that the PWC lifting systems are not checked during inspection/survey, unlike the davits/hiabs and lifting strops for the tenders etc. Some provisional communication with inspectors/surveyors has indicated that this may be because PWCs are classified as water toys rather than vessels but this doesn't change the fact that your SMS should include all items that are lifted, for the safety of the crew and guests.
When looking around the market place for tried and tested lifting systems they are admittedly sparse. The two obvious options are to stick with the Seadoo lifting slings which are manufacturer approved (by Seadoo only) but the risk of 'slip' still exists and is highlighted by the crew fatality. The second is a system introduced in 2015, that is a certificated 4 point lifting system that has a full conformity certificate with permanent fixings which can either be fitted by a dealer or your engineer/bosun onboard. Please click here for further details and purchase options. (Price per set £640 ex.VAT)
Disclaimer: The systems above have not been tried and tested by us, we therefore do not endorse or recommend any specific lifting systems. The resources above are simply examples of what some yachts are using in practice. Individual testing will need to be carried prior to use.