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Anti-exposure suits. Do you need one?
By admin
January 17, 2019

AMSA have updated the Safety Equipment section (NSCV C7A) and the requirement for anti-exposure suits. These may be required on your vessel by January the 1st 2019 If your vessel fits the following criteria:

  • Class 1B, 1C, 2C, 2B, 3B and 3C vessels
  • Greater than 25m.
  • Vessels continuously engaged on voyages in operational areas with a monthly mean water temperature of 15°C or less – (You will need to check where your vessel operates, however this includes Victoria and Tasmania) then;

An anti-exposure suit of an appropriate size shall be provided for every person assigned to crew the rescue boat.


What is an Anti-Exposure Suit?
Anti-exposure suits 
are similar to immersion suits, but there are a few differences. They must provide at least 70 Newtons of buoyancy and be made of a material that reduces the risk of heat stress during rescue and evacuation operations. Anti-exposure suits are provided with a lifejacket light and whistle, and must be capable of turning a person in the water from face-down to face-up in not more that five seconds.

The Immersion suit will need to comply with SOLAS Chap.III/7.3;

An anti-exposure suit of an appropriate size shall be provided for every person assigned to crew the rescue boat.

If you need assistance with finding the correct one please give Mick Uberti or another MSA surveyor a call.


What is an Immersion Suit?
Immersion suit or survival suit is a protective suit that reduces the body heat-loss of a person wearing it in cold water, e.g. when rescuing someone from the sea. A dressed person in seawater at 0°C can get exhausted in minutes and die in a quarter to three-quarters of an hour. Immersion suits are designed to prevent crew members from death due to exposure and hypothermia. To do this, a suit must cover the entire body and its extremities, except the face, with highly insulating waterproof material.


Maintenance and Inspections
Monthly inspection of immersion suits and anti-exposure suits carried out in accordance with SOLAS regulation III/20.7

IMO Circular MSC/Circ.1047 “Guidelines for monthly shipboard inspection of immersion suits and anti-exposure suits by ships’ crews” should be incorporated into the checklist of instructions for on-board maintenance prescribed in SOLAS regulation III/36.1, and the monthly inspection of immersion suits / anti-exposure suits should be carried out in accordance with SOLAS regulation III/20.7.

Items for checks
Check closures on the storage bag as well as the general condition of the bag for ease of removal of the suit. Ensure donning instructions are legible. Confirm that the suit is the type and size identified on the bag.

Lay the suit on a clean, flat surface. Make sure the suit is dry inside and out. Visually check for damage. Rips, tears or punctures should be repaired in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions by a suitable repair station.

Check the zipper by sliding it up and down to check for ease of operation. Using lubricant recommended by the manufacturer, lubricate the front and back of the zipper and the slide fastener. If the zipper is not functional, the suit should be removed from service and discarded or returned to the manufacturer or a suitable repair station.

If fitted, check inflatable head support and/or buoyancy ring for damage and ensure that it is properly attached. Check inflation hose(s) for deterioration. At least quarterly, the head support/buoyancy ring should be inflated and tested for leaks (this test does not apply to integral inflatable lifejackets). Leaks should be repaired in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions by a suitable repair station.

Check retro reflective tape for condition and adhesion. Replace if necessary.

If fitted, check whistle and expiration date of light and battery

Replace suits in the bag with zippers fully opened.

The opportunity should be taken at such monthly inspections for the crew to practice donning the immersion suits or anti-exposure suits.


Why do I need this?
Hypothermia is a major cause of death at sea, resulting in about 800 casualties annually, most of which are reported as drownings.

With the increase of trading routes in Arctic territories, this number could unfortunately increase. Some types of immersion suits claim that an immersion suit adds at least 19 hours to the IMO stipulated six hours survival time requirement.

Cold water immersion suits have become an important safety component on board commercial vessels and offshore platforms, protecting accident victims from open flames, high impact jumps, hypothermia and drowning.

There are three phases of the body’s response to cold water immersion

Phase 1

  • Initial immersion and cold shock response
  • Occurs within the first 1 to 4 minutes
  • Increase in metabolism
  • Rapid skin cooling initiates immediate gasp response, inability to hold breath and hyperventilation

Phase 2

  • Short term immersion and loss of performance
  • Significant cooling of peripheral tissues, especially in the extremities, continues with most of the effects occurring over the first 30 minutes

Phase 3

  • Long term immersion and the onset of hypothermia
  • Continuous heat loss from the body eventually decreases core temperature

Hypothermia usually only becomes a contributor to death if immersion lasts for more than 30 minutes

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