Man Overboard Situation on Ship and Ways to Tackle it

Man overboard is a situation where in a ship’s crew member falls out at sea from the ship, no matter where the ship is sailing, in open seas or in still waters in port. A seafarer has to be very careful while performing his duties onboard vessel as it can never be taken for granted that a person cannot fall off the ship due to bad weather, swell in the sea, accidents, and due to negligence during.

A man overboard is an emergency situation and it is very important to locate and recover the person as soon as possible as due to bad weather or rough sea, the crew member can drown or else due to temperature of the cold water the person can get hypothermia.


Hypothermia is a situation where in there is an extensive loss of body temperature due to prolonged contact of body with cold water and the body’s normal metabolism and functions get affected.

A person will get unconscious after 15 minutes in water with temperature of 5 ̊ C.

Alarm for Man Overboard

There is a dedicated alarm signal used onboard vessels and is same for all entire vessels sailing in international waters.

Three prolong blast on the ship’s electrical bell and ship’s whistle is an alarm signal used for man overboard emergency situation.

Action to be Taken during Man Overboard Situation

The initial and early sighting of the fallen crew plays a vital role in increasing the percentage of saving his/her life.

Important actions to be taken when a man overboard is sighted are:

  • The first and foremost thing is Never to lose the sight of fallen person and inform others onboard by shouting “Man overboard” along with side of the ship i.e. port of starboard side until someone informs the bridge and raises an alarm.
  • As soon as bridge officer knows the situation, raise the ‘man overboard alarm’ and hoist signal flag “O” to inform all the ship staff and other ships about the vicinity.
  • Throw a lifebuoy with smoke float, light (and SART if available) near to the fallen person.
  • It is to be kept in mind not to throw more then one life buoy as it will distract the fallen crew who is already in panic.
  • Post a constant look out with binoculars for continuous watch on man overboard.
  • Ship’s engine must be slowed down and ship should be turned toward the fallen crew for recovery manoeuvre. Engine to be on stand by all the time.
  • Care must be taken to manoeuvre the ship carefully as not to hit the fallen crew with ship.
  • Keep ready the rescue boat and muster the rescue team.

Always try to succeed in the first attempt as even a little delay can cause a human life.

You may also like to read-Important Features of Muster List on ShipDifferent Types of Alarms on Ship

References: atlanticmaritimeacademy

Image Credits: business-strategy-innovation, bbc

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    The mate on the bridge must push the GPS MOB button that it wiil record the position the crew member was fallen and other the mate must turn to side where crew member fell, he must keep the propeller clear from the crew member in the water.

  2. Al Angeles says

    Appreciate all the important aspects you mention and I may add If it happen during the hour of darkness, suggest to execute the “Williamson Turn” to keep track on the victim as close as possible.

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