‘Person Overboard’ is an emergency situation when someone, often a crew member falls out of a ship. A situation like this is an absolute emergency and requires immediate action by those on board. Time is of the essence when it comes to responding to a person overboard emergency. First and foremost, the people on board have to locate the person as quickly as possible.
1. Never jump in the sea to rescue the person overboard. In a situation like this, the victim is justifiably distressed. If the rescuer comes in contact with them, they could find themselves in distress or could also be pulled under by the victim.
2. One of the first things to do is to yell ‘man overboard’ in order to alert the crew about the ongoing situation. The next step is to press the ‘man overboard’ button on the ship’s GPS in order to register the location. Sound ‘O’ on the whistle (Three prolonged blasts). This allows the Master and the crew to be extra vigilant about the emergency situation.
3. Alertness is of prime importance in this situation. A ‘General Alarm’ must also be set in place in order to ensure that everyone on board is aware of the situation.Inform the engine room as there will be a dire need for maneuvering.
4. Execute the ‘Williamsons Turn’ which is as follows:
a. Note the position of the ship
b. Put wheel hard over to the side of the casualty.
c. After the ship has altered course by about 60 degrees, put the wheel hard over to the other side
d. When the vessel is 20 degrees short of the reciprocal course, wheel on the midship.
7. Grab the ‘man overboard equipment’ and proceed with the rescue mission. This typically includes a crew overboard rescue device, the MOM 8A rescue horseshoe, and the MOM 8S soft pack.
8. Once the person is rescued, administer first-aid immediately.
9. An entry must be made in the ship’s logbook and the Master must carry out an inquiry for the person overboard incident.
A person overboard emergency is not a minor incident - it could be a result of security lapses, negligence, a slippery deck or even attempted suicide. In addition, without medical kits, these emergencies can have more serious consequences. Hence, it’s important to follow these steps to ensure that the victim is saved and proper guidelines are followed to ensure timely actions.