“Man Overboard, it will never happen to me!”

We’ve all thought it and hopefully it never will, however the reality is… it does happen!

So, if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of taking a swim when you didn’t intend to, a pair of speedos won’t cut it and you need to ensure you give yourself the best possible chance of survival.

We all remember Maslow’s theory of motivation, right? The five-tier model of human needs and how these needs must be fulfilled before we can move on to the next ‘level’. Well, the needs of successfully surviving a man overboard can be put in to a very similar hierarchical diagram (opposite).

The hierarchy is made up of five aspects and, similar to Maslow’s theory, if you remove one of the five aspects you significantly reduce your chances of survival.

THE FIVE ASPECTS IN MORE DETAIL Evacuation – If you have unexpectedly ended up in the water as a result of falling over the side of a crew transfer vessel for instance, this aspect is irrelevant as you weren’t supposed to evacuate! However, should you be on board a vessel that is sinking or a turbine that is on fire, a clear evacuation plan is imperative to getting away from the immediate danger safely.

Flotation – Ok, so you’re in the water, the first thing you need to do in order to stay alive is keep your head above the water. You could be conscious and in a clear state of mind, however, you could have fallen from height, hit your head and

become unconscious or just suffering from cold water shock. In either scenario, a SOLAS 275N lifejacket such as the sMRT WIND from MRT will automatically activate once you hit the water, put you on your back if you are face down and will ensure your airways are kept clear and above the water at all times.

Insulation – You’re in the water and floating with your airways clear so the next question is, how long is help going to take to get to you? The answer is, you don’t know!

In waters under 4°, the estimated survival time is 30-90 minutes depending on fitness and body type, however, you can expect to be unconscious or experience exhaustion within just 15-30 minutes. This time can be significantly increased by wearing a SOLAS approved immersion suit, it will keep you insulated and dry whilst also adding some buoyancy to help keep you afloat.

Location – Hang in there, you’re doing well. You’re keeping afloat, your airways are clear and you’re wearing a SOLAS suit that will give you valuable extra time, however the next question is, does anybody know you are there and if so how can they locate you? Wearing a PLB such as the sMRT AU10 from MRT will automatically activate when you hit the water and ensure that everybody in the transmission range (up to 75NM surface to air) knows you are there by sounding a 121.5MHz alarm.

Extraction Location Insulation Flotation Evacuation

More importantly it will allow you to be tracked and located accurately, via AIS to within a metre.

Extraction – You have given yourself the best possible chance of survival by wearing a SOLAS approved lifejacket and suit and you are equipped with a PLB. Now it is down to the rescue assets whether that be the transfer vessel you fell off, a nearby passing vessel or a helicopter deployed by Search and Rescue to ensure they locate you and remove you from the water as quickly and as safely as possible. Vessel transfer crews perform MOB drills on a regular basis so that they are prepared should they ever be required to assist in a real- life situation.


The most important rule of going to work is returning home to your family at the end of the day. Working on, besides and around the ocean is dangerous, ensuring you and your colleagues follow the ELIFE Hierarchy of needs could be the difference between saving and losing a life.

Ryan Pettit

Chief Operations Officer Marine Rescue Technologies Ltd 87

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