May 2018: Means of escape from crew spaces on fishing vessels

This safety update is issued to raise awareness that vessels without adequate means of escape in an emergency pose a potential life-threatening risk to safety. It provides safe practice tips for how best to reduce the risks involved.

This safety update is for

  • New Zealand ship owners, masters and crew
  • Maritime NZ recognised surveyors
  • Maritime NZ maritime officers, investigators and technical advisors
  • Ship designers and boat builders



In October 2015 three crew died when a fishing vessel sank. The likely cause of the sinking was flooding of the fish room.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigation identified that the means of escape from the wheelhouse in the event of an emergency were not well designed and the crew did not have enough options for escaping in the event of capsize or sinking.


Precautions and procedures

Ensuring that there are adequate means of escape in any emergency on board a small vessel is critical to safety. Designers of vessels should take a risk-based approach to designing and providing escape routes from all spaces for all reasonably foreseeable emergency situations.

Emergency situations at sea can develop with little warning and often the vessel will have to be evacuated quickly. Evacuation of crew and passengers may be difficult because of vessel movement. Flooding, fire and smoke can make it even harder to get out. It is important that no further obstacles are put in the way of the person escaping, whether it is a physical obstruction, or the person’s lack of knowledge about the vessel.

Masters and operators should ensure:

  • escape routes are maintained in a working condition, free of obstacles, easily accessible and clearly marked
  • passengers receive a safety briefing before or immediately after the vessel sails
  • crew receive on board familiarisation training before being assigned any shipboard duties
  • emergency drills are held regularly and often and should include practical exercises covering the vessel’s emergency procedures
  • procedures for passenger safety briefings, crew familiarisation and emergency drills are included in the vessel’s safety system and safe operating procedures.


Further reading

Maritime NZ has published two position statements on the requirements for means of escape from passenger and crew spaces.

They include guidance in applying the Maritime Rules related to egress and means of escape.

PS-01-18 Egress and means of escape from passenger spaces [PDF: 260kB, 11 pages] PS-02-18 Means of escape from crew spaces on fishing ships [PDF: 238kB, 9 pages]

Original source content - Safety bulletin issue 37, May 2018: Diesel stoves on board fishing vessels.


Contact us for more help

If you have any questions about this safety update, please contact our Wellington office.


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