Abandon Ship Kit PDF Print

Abandon Ship Preparation

History shows, vessel sinking has something to do with displacing water. When your vessel can no longer stay above the surface of the water, reach for your emergency and safety gear. Pack your Abandon Ship Kit when you plan your trip.The golden rule of survival is never leaving the biggest craft to get into the survival craft, until the former slides beneath the surface. Air pockets can sometimes keep the most rock like structures afloat indefinitely. Search and rescue craft are more likely to see a large object on radar or visually. When you are getting into the liferaft you should step up!Make the sound decisions on dry land to minimize the tasks when on the ocean. Most people telling their account of survival at sea say abandoning ship is their worst moment! There is a stark reality check into the unknown. The confusion of how your worst moment at sea arrived without warning. Often there is little time to think or act.

Your liferaft should be able to hold all persons aboard and packed accordingly with gear for your trip. If your liferaft is in a valise the liferaft should be stored in a dry accessible place. If your liferaft is in a container with a hydro static release the liferaft should float free unobstructed when automatically deployed. For manually releasing your liferaft in container from the cradle test the hardware for ease of release operation.

Storage of a liferaft in a valise below decks is not recommended. When underway have the liferaft topsides and have it ready to go with the painter line securely tied off. Most liferafts packed in a valise are not intended to get wet.

MSC believes if your vessel can accommodate a liferaft in a deck mounted cradle your safety will be best served!

WATER Let us assume you have selected a liferaft and an abandon ship kit which both contain water and the means to reclaim or desalinate water. MSC insists on redundancy. Have a supplemental supply of water that can be taken with you if you need to transfer to the liferaft. It should be separate of the abandon ship pack which you may not be able to retrieve due to adverse circumstances.

Water floats in basically any packaging however you will want to make it visible, containerized, portable, and towable. The same principles we will discuss with regards to the abandon kit construction also apply to the water kit. Color and Graphic distinction between water kit and Abandon ship kit are essential for you and your crew to distinguish between them!

LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION! Store the vessels liferaft and abandon ship kit where they may easily be moved from their space for deployment and use.Lets revisit the perfect world once more. Pack the bag and buy the boat that suits your liferaft, which can accommodate the bag! Short of that find the most suitable, accessible location. A water tight cockpit locker or deck mounted cradle is a good place to start.

ATTENTION ! ATTENTION! ATTENTION! All crew should know where the abandon ship bag is located. Assign a primary and secondary crewmember the duty of retrieving the Abandon Ship bag in the event of an emergency. You and your crew members’ survival and rescue may depend on the contents of the abandon ship kit.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. Your crew knows where the Abandon Ship Kit is securely stowed. There are primary and secondary crew assigned for the retrieval of the Abandon ship kit in an emergency. All crew should know the contents of the kit and how and when to use them. You want to know dated items will be serviceable for the duration of your trip. Periodically check the dated items. Use a laminated card to list the contents and quantities of the kit. On the laminated card list the applicable expiry dates. A label machine or grease pen can be used to make easy updates to the list. 

CONSTRUCTION Before we talk about the abandon ship kit priority list we will discuss the construction and customizing options that might help your survival and rescue.

The Abandon Ship kit:

·        must float fully loaded.

·        should be water proof

·        contents should be vacuum packed or at a minimum sealed in ziplock bags to stay dry.

·        laminated equipment list should be attached externally.

·        should be fixed with a quick release tether for towing to the liferaft.  

·        should be fixed with a water activated locator light.


The contents will be defined by several factors

·        Liferaft contents

·        Trip duration and distance from shore

·        Number of persons aboard

·        The investment you are willing to make for emergency survival and personal safety at sea.

CONTENTS  We need to divide these by category and priority for survival /rescue.


Anti-motion tablets (Sea Sickness Tablets)

Water Means to reclaim water from the SeaMethod to measure and dispense

Means to store collected rainwater

Plastic sheeting to construct supplementary rainwater catch 

Once you have made the successful transition from one sea worthy vessel to the next best shelter with the abandon ship kit.

The first priority is to acclimate yourself to your temporary shelter. The most reoccurring tale we have been told from survivor accounts is the transition from the motion of the former vessel to the motion of the liferaft. If you have ever spent some time, say 2-3 days, on a vessel then stepped foot on solid land you will understand this transition and the meaning of “Sea legs”! The shock of the motion is not pleasurable when at sea.Even the most seasoned seafarers experience some form of seasickness. TAKE YOUR ANTI MOTION TABLETS IMMEDIATELY! The goal Is to keep hydrated and retain the contents of your stomach.

To be practical the abandon ship kit will not realistically be able to accommodate the volume of water you and your companions will need to survive an extended period in your survival craft. There are several products available that can purify water to make it fit for your consumption. The most practical of these is a reverse osmosis pump. SIGNALINGSurvival is nice but rescue is better. You need to be actively working to attract attention.406 EPIRBFlaresLightsChemical light sticks may work well in a warm environment but not when things get colder. If you have chemical light sticks check their expiration dates!“Strobe lights look extraordinary bright up close, surprisingly they do not look as bright from the air. That is because all that light is dispersed over an entire hemisphere but most is directed vertically. They work well in fog.Strobe lights have the advantage of working when unattended. A good old incandescent light puts all its light eggs in one beam basket so it is very good at one direction but not good when no there are no brains behind it. Lasers are expensive and it is difficult to identify their source.AudibleReflecting signaling mirror Glass ones are best but don’t mix well with liferafts!  STEEL WILL DULL BUT WHEN PROPERLY PACKAGED WILL STAND UP THE BEST. Brightness is a function of the reflective area.Even a hologram on a credit card works in a pinch.Make sure these devices are tethered!The first choice when choosing signaling items is a 406 EPIRP! We stress the importance of redundancy with liferafts. Here we instill the thinking in terms of a second EPIRB. The first should be the Cat I type which is set up in the event you can’t get to it, during an emergency, it will release itself and begin transmitting on its own. The 2nd EPIRP, also a 406, should be the 1st piece of equipment to have space reserved for in your abandon ship pack. Check its operation as prescribed by the manufacturer once per month.Flares are your next best distress signal. Only use SOLAS grade Flares. They illuminate more intensely, stay aloft longer (in the case of a rocket flare, and have longer burn times than approved USCG models. Buy brands that the major liferaft manufacturers use in their liferafts. There are varying grade products that meet the same the SOLAS requirements. Quality Liferaft manufacturers minimize their liability by performing required additional tests with the flares, they pack inside their liferafts.


Hand Held Red SOLAS Flare

For use day or night as a short range distress signal used to pinpoint position.

Conforms to SOLAS 74/88 as amended.

May be carried on ship's bridge and is a requirement in ship's Lifeboats and liferafts.

The handflare is suitable for use on commercial and recreational boats.

Rocket Propelled Red SOLAS Parachute Flare

Day or night long range distress siganl.

Designed to withstand exceptional environmental exposure and to perform reliably even after immersion in water.

Ejects a red flare suspended on a parachute.

Conforms to SOLAS 74/88 as amended.

The Rocket Propelled Red SOLAS Parachute Flare is suitable for use on commercial and recreational boats.    

Buoyant Smoke SOLAS

Distress Signal for daylight -

Signal for position marking during rescue operations

Indicates wind direction

Safe use on oil or petrol covered water

Conforms to SOLAS 74/88 as amended

The Buoyant Smoke is suitable for use on commercial and recreational boats.


Outdated pyrotechnics removed from your liferaft during inspection and repack servicing and put in your abandon ship kit may or may not work.If they don’t work you will be liable for damages caused to persons or equipment that reduces person’s chance of survival. Why are flares dated? The Marine environment is one of the harshest.Pyrotechnics (flares) are not actually stable commodities in the most ideal of conditions! Take the expiry date seriously!There are some stark realities at sea that might prompt you to consider slightly different tactics when using your quiver of rocket-propelled flares. International Maritime Law mandates that every vessel on the high seas has a member of the crew stand watch at all times. If a single handed racing sailing vessel passes, sleep being a necessity, could greatly reduce your chances of being spotted. Additionally lack of Common sense and unfortunately economics of operating a vessel at a profit might lead a vessel not to have a crewman standing watch at just the most inopportune time for you. Your rocket flare is a useful signaling device. Use your common sense to maximize their effectiveness and limited supply.Flares, when used incorrectly, can cause more harm than good. Familiarize yourself in the use of each manufacturer’s brand you have. Operation is different from one brand to another. Once in the liferaft hold the flare over water to prevent damage to the liferaft. Never hold or ignite a flare inside the liferaft.


Hand flares burn at extremely hot temperatures and hold the heat long after they burn out. Never set a burned out flare down without first immersing in water to cool it down. However a burning flare will remain burning underwater until it runs out of fuel. Make sure it is completely spent before beginning the cooling process.Finally, many brands of flares have a lag time from when you ignite till when it begins to operate. However normal this is it will startle you so be aware! If an activated flare fails to work, throw it far away from your craft as not to have it activate at a later and inopportune time!

LIGHTS 2 or 3 cell waterproof flashlights



Fishing kit


Plastic bags

Though food is less important than water you can’t live indefinitely without food. Your diet is completely different when sitting in a liferaft then when active on shore or at sea.What works for athletes, campers are completely different. Stock the rations as produced for outfitting a liferaft they fit the bill. They are segregated into portions and formulized to provide minimum nutrition with body fluid conservation in mind as well as ease of digestion. The rations are high in carbohydrates and low in moisture content to allow for long storage life in vacuum packed brickets.


Sun Screen


Hat, with brow

Thermal protective aid

Choose a liferaft with a canopy! Even with a canopy be prepared to deal with the powerful rays of the sun. Keep your body covered. Keep sunscreen on any exposed skin.


Survival instructions

Reading materials

Writing utensils/ Waterproof paper


Thread/ needle

Leak Stop kit


Duct tape

Keeping your chin up in a difficult situation is no easy task. Certain items of this kit contain items that will give the sense of all people being equal and being treated equal. To prevent the feeling of losing conformity normally found in our social society back on land, perceived or actual, it is important to dole out the life supporting goods evenly and justly. Hence the measuring cup for the water and the prepackaged rations already cut into even size portions. Next it is important for mind to be kept active. Your shelter is now your livelihood as well. Having packed an assortment of items that may help you better maintain will serve two(2) purposes: Do the maintenance and repairs. Keep your mind stimulated and or occupied.

MISCELLANOUS  Batteries for electronic equipment Aside from your EPIRB you might have electronic equipment, which you can replace as they run out of power. You should have only the highest quality of spare batteries. At present the lithium batteries yield the longest shelf and service life.Rotate your spare batteries from your kit. Follow your maintenance plan set up for your abandon kit.

PERSONIZED ITEMS  You’re your own keeper. You need to keep a supply of any item important to maintaining your good self. Yes a good question for all your passengers planning to spend some time on your vessel. Typical personalized items may begin with the list below and expanded as suited or personally required:Prescription Medicines EyeglassesContact lenses with cleaning solutionTooth paste/brushes

PACKING THE KIT  Just as important as the items you choose is how you pack the kit. It may jumped off the paper by know; the kit we are building is starting to resemble a vessel! As with any good vessel we need to get some counter weighting, or ballast, toward the bottom of the craft! Pack the heaviest densest items on the bottom.

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