In-Water Survival – Could you survive?

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In-water survival

Having to survive in the water after your vessels sinks or through a person overboard situation can be a terrifying ordeal and one that I hope you or your crew don’t have to go through!

The question is…

…if you found yourself in that situation could you survive?

The sad fact is that most people don’t really consider it until it’s too late. On commercial vessels it’s a requirement to undertake drills to ensure all crew have the knowledge and skills to deal with emergencies.

Over the last few months I’ve been delivering onboard safety training to crews around Australia, which has highlighted a serious lack of knowledge and complacency was highlighted yet again.

Having said that lets look at survival techniques.

Here’s a few points to consider first…

  1. Does anyone know you’re in the water?
  2. Are you alone or are there others?
  3. Are you injured or is anyone with you injured?
  4. Do you have a lifejacket on?
  5. Is there an inflatable life raft?
  6. Where are you?
  7. What are you wearing?
  8. What are the conditions?

These are some of the major factors influencing how you survive. If nobody knows you’re in the water then that’s a major problem to start with.

Injuries represent another issue depending on the nature of the injury while not having a lifejacket on puts you in a serious survival situation.

Where you are, what you’re wearing and the prevailing conditions all represent major problems in surviving!

If you’re 50nm offshore and find yourself in the water with no lifejacket or anything else to support you in the water and nobody knows then you’re in a heap of trouble. Survival in this situation is not impossible but to be honest chances are limited.

If you’re undertaking a solo voyage then I strongly recommend wearing a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) that’s GPS activated. This is probably your best chance of survival but the information following may also apply in the above scenario.

Your alone in the water with a lifejacket on, not nice but better than being without one! So…how do you enhance your survival rate?

Hypothermia is a major issue no matter where you are. Even during the last few months delivering training too many crew members thought that hypothermia didn’t happen in the tropics.

If you’re alone in the water you need to use the Heat Escape Lessing Position (HELP) minimise the amount of heat loss from your body.

The HELP position is achieved by crossing your arms tightly against your chest then drawing your knees up and against your chest and keeping your head and face out of the water.

If there’s more than one person then you use the huddle technique. This is where you all huddle together in a group to reduce the heat loss of all persons.

By huddling together you make it easier for rescuers to see you in the water. A group huddling together with lifejackets on is much easier to spot than you alone.

Learn more about in-water survival in the next issue.

This is a topic I cover in my onboard training session along with how to safely and efficiently handle other emergency situations.

If you’d like to know more about these valuable onboard training sessions contact me by email or call my office on 07 4242 1412

The above is only a guide and there are many other steps that can save your life but…

…there are many dangers involved that can impact on your ability to survive!

If you would like more information on this subject or to book a training session don’t hesitate to contact me because…it’s your safety and the safety of your crew!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

If you haven’t trained your crew in basic in-water survival techniques I strongly recommend doing so now before the event. If you expect you or your crew to survive in-water then you need to give everyone, including yourself the best chance of survival by getting the right training.

It’s not only good sense it’s also a requirement for owners and Masters to ensure all crew are inducted, trained and drills undertaken to ensure the safety of all persons onboard.


Crew training saves lives, one of which may be yours so don’t let complacency be the cause of injuries or loss of life. My best tip is to make a start to change the culture onboard your vessel sooner rather than latter!

Crew Training Log Book Log Book requirements.

We all know log books are required and we can supply a number of generic formats including a Crew Training Log book which ensures you record all the information required by AMSA.