A crew boat is often used as a method to transfer personnel to a vessel. This smaller vessel primarily handles personnel transportation, as well as the transfer of cargo. These vessels do range in size, and can either be small vessels that work in bays and inland waters (typically 30 to 60 feet long), or larger vessels that can travel up to 200 miles offshore (up to 200 feet long). According to the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), a crew boat is classified as any vessel that is less than 500 gross tonnage.
One of the most common types of personnel transfer is accomplished with a crew boat. These vessels are not required to have international safety management or international ship security certificates, and while it is generally considered to be safe practice for the boat to be properly outfitted and certified, it is not required.
Per IMC S 004 / IMC M 189, small workboats should be inspected for the following:
When transferring offshore personnel via crew boat, the vessel should be checked to ensure that it is seaworthy, and that it is the correct size and type for the job. In addition to assessing appropriate size and type, sea and weather conditions should also be considered. For example, if the transfer is happening 150 miles from the harbor and requires 100 maritime workers to be on board, a larger vessel needs to be used.
Maritime workers face several dangers when boarding or disembarking from vessels, including crew boats. The transportation of offshore workers to and a crew boat can be accomplished in several different manners—including:
Regardless of the type of transfer used, it is important that when a crew boat is brought alongside either a vessel or a stationary structure that both vessel movement and deck height are taken into consideration. During the embarkation and disembarkation process, personnel should be positioned in a manner that ensures workers are kept safe; an experienced individual should also be made available for supervision. Personnel being transferred should have access to either a handrail or another form of support.
To ensure the crew is kept safe, crew boats are required to provide safety equipment such as life jackets and life rafts. Before the beginning of each voyage or transfer, all personnel and crew should be given a safety briefing that includes alarm signals, the location of safety equipment, escape routes, and more. On all voyages, passengers should be given sheltered, comfortable seating. On longer voyages, the crew boat should contain portable water, a galley for meals, a mess room, and sleeping areas. On all trips, regardless of length, steps should be taken to minimize the possibility of seasickness and fatigue. If luggage is being transported, it should be sheltered.
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