Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Life Jackets on Ships

Highest consideration factor is given to human life at sea while dealing with any type of emergency and life saving appliances plays an important role in saving lives in all types of emergency situation.

A ship is assigned with different types of life saving appliances for various emergency situations and their operating and maintenance procedures must be well known to the ship’s staff.

One such life saving appliance which is used in almost all kinds of emergencies is the Life jacket or life vest. The details for construction and operating requirements are given in SOLAS chapter II under LSA code which was recently amended in July 2010.


What is life jacket?

Life jacket is a sleeveless jacket made up of buoyant or inflatable material used to keep human body afloat in water.

Two popular types of life jackets used onboard are:

  • Inflatable life jacket: This jacket needs inflation for buoyancy and is automatically inflated when immersed in water. It normally consists of two different buoyancy compartments.


  • Non inflatable life jacket: These jackets are fitted with buoyant materials and they don’t need to inflate.


How many life jackets should be there on a ship?

On Passenger Ships

  • There must be a life jacket for every person onboard ship.
  • Life jacket for each child or 10 % of the total number of passenger which ever is higher.

On Cargo ships

  • There must be a life jacket for all the crew and their families, if onboard.
  • Since officers carry their family with them, infant life jacket must be provided in cargo ships.

The number of life jackets must be carried in excess as in case of damage to any, it can be replaced with spare one.

What are the requirements (including 2010 amendments) as per SOLAS?

  • Each life jacket shall be fitted with a whistle firmly secured by a lanyard.
  • Life jacket lights and whistles shall be selected and secured to the lifejacket in such a way that their performance in combination is not degraded.
  • Each life jacket shall be provided with a releasable buoyant line or other means to secure it to a lifejacket worn by another person in the water.
  • Each life jacket shall be provided with a suitable means to allow a rescuer to lift the wearer from the water into a survival craft or rescue boat.
  • Jacket must not sustain burning or melting when exposed to fire for a period of 2 seconds.
  • It is clearly capable of being worn in only one way or, as far as is practicable, cannot be donned incorrectly.
  • When jumped from a height of at least 4.5 m into the water no injury and dislodging or damaging the lifejacket.
  • Should have buoyancy which is not reduced by more than 5% after 24 hour submersion in fresh water

You may also like to read-Life Raft on Ships: A General OverviewTypes of Lifeboats Used On Ship




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About Author

An ardent sailor and a techie, Anish Wankhede has voyaged on a number of ships as a marine engineer officer. He loves multitasking, networking, and troubleshooting. He is the one behind the unique creativity and aesthetics at Marine Insight.

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  1. Really a nice blog… the Information about Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Life Jackets on Ships is so nice thanx for sharing great information….

  2. Can you send me a technical info with a Mail showed,, exploded diagram of automatic sea water inflator ( Trigger ) mechanisim for an Inflatable life jacket

  3. Safety the number one(1) enquiry onboard, it’s neccesary to be safety conscious.

  4. Hie about lifejacket size new requirement for infant and child ? Any comment or information about?

  5. Good Day,
    can you lease guide me with the requirement of technical details of releasable buoyant line (buddy line) on life jacket to secure life jacket to others persons together

  6. The material buoyancy should be similar to that of the lifejacket with a plastic hook at the end to secure it with another lifejacket.

  7. What is requirement for stencil on the Lifejacket?
    I cannot find anywhere, is it only ship name or port of register as well?

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