Published: 14 November 2023

Marine Evacuation Systems (MES) on board passenger ships typically consist of large inflatable life rafts and either an inflatable slide or escape chute. These systems are designed to enable the rapid evacuation of a large number of people without requiring extensive training.

The Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention requires that each MES installed on board a ship is deployed on a rotational basis, this ensures each system is deployed at least every six years. This rotational deployment provides the ship and crew with an opportunity to practice an evacuation using the MES. While these exercises are essential, they do come with inherent risks which the ship operator and crew need to be aware of.     


To not prejudice P&I cover and to provide Members with guidance on potential liabilities associated with involving volunteers in a MES drill, it is imperative to promptly inform the Club’s underwriting department before conducting the exercise.


MES exercises should always be organised and managed in accordance with regulations, including those of the flag state, class and port State. Members should also adhere to the equipment maker’s safety and operational instructions and maintenance requirements.


There are several possible risks that Members should be aware of and carefully assess. These risks include, but are not limited to:

  • Risk of deteriorating weather and sea conditions during the exercise
  • Risk of injury at the time of using the slide/chute and boarding the life raft
  • Risks arising from potential exposure to water e.g., drowning or hypothermia
  • Risks arising at the time of the participants’ egress from the equipment
  • Risk of damage to personal effects and clothing of the participants.

Mitigation measures will depend on the specific characteristic of the MES and the planned exercise, as well as the available resources such as trained crew, rescue boat(s) etc. Members should conduct a risk assessment covering the entire exercise scenario in accordance with the procedures of their own Safety Management System.


Ship operators should have an effective process in place to ensure all participants have been briefed and are familiar with safety processes. During the exercise, participants should be supervised and assisted to ensure their safety, untrained volunteers should not operate the ship’s equipment.

While the use of volunteers can make a MES exercise more realistic, ensuring the safety for everyone involved throughout the exercise remains the main priority. By adhering to above principles, it will be possible to mitigate the inherent risks and conduct a both realistic and safe MES exercise.

For further information please do not hesitate to contact the loss prevention team.