ISO 27991:2008: Ensure Safe Crew Evacuations

Learn about how the ISO 27991 standard can help maritime management plan for evacuations safely and effectively.

What is ISO 27991:2008?

The ISO 27991:2008 specification provides guidance on communicating between a Marine Evacuation System (MES) and the platform or survival craft it is attached to, as required by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulation III/6.4.4. It recommends exchanging a minimum set of data between the MES and the platform or survival craft to ensure the occupants’ safety during an evacuation.

Benefits of Implementing ISO 27991

The benefits of implementing the ISO 27991:2008 specification include the following:

  • Reduced risk of injury or death during a marine evacuation
  • Reduced risk of delays in evacuation
  • Reduced costs associated with evacuations

What are the Different Types of Marine Evacuation Systems (MES)?

Some of the unique marine evacuation systems available are as follows:

  • The Chute System – The chute system is a method of emergency evacuation for cruise ships that can rescue up to 565 people within 30 minutes. The chutes are made of solid Kevlar material, allowing them to withstand severe weather conditions.
  • The Mini-Chute System – The mini-chute can hold 582 individuals and evacuate them in 30 minutes. It’s made using Kevlar, making it indestructible during an emergency event. The system is flexible and easy to set up without any complications.
  • The Slide System – The slide system has the advantage of being able to be set up anywhere on the ship, both at the front and back. The evacuation capacity is 657 people within 30 minutes and can be set up quite flexibly. The slide is set up at a 30-degree angle to allow for smoother movement of evacuees.
  • The Mini-Slide System – The mini-slide system is better for ships with a lower deck height. After inflation, this system can evacuate 615 people within 30 minutes. It’s the most crucial feature of the mini-slide system.

What are the Different Messages Requiring Communication in MES?

The entrance and exit of the MES passage typically have a controller and receiver, respectively. The messages that require communication apply to all MES systems, regardless of height or configuration (slide/chute/etc.). It supports controlled and safe evacuations and provides feedback during an evacuation.


  • Starting evacuation*
  • Stopping evacuation*
  • Change pace of evacuation
  • Identify an incident has occurred


  • Ready to receive*
  • Stop evacuation*
  • Change pace of evacuation
  • Identify an incident has occurred

*If the communications system fails, there should be a clear plan for alternative means of communication, as outlined in either the MES operating manual or vessel training manual.

What are the Different Considerations Affecting MES Communication?

Whenever possible, communication devices on board a ship should be positioned ergonomically and in a way that doesn’t interfere with the operation of other life-saving devices, especially those near the equipment. It shall be able to function correctly for the duration of an evacuation. The following are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Background noise and vibration
  • Lighting – artificial and strong, natural sunlight, as well as nighttime operation and backlighting
  • Conditions of restricted or reduced visibility
  • Environmental conditions (−30 °C to +65 °C) – humidity, visibility (e.g., controller viewing receiver in a snow storm), heavy weather
  • Robustness to withstand the conditions and forces generated during deployment and evacuation
  • Possible confusion between individual MES communication systems and shipboard operational, emergency, and damage control communications

FAQs About ISO 27991

The Marine Evacuation System (MES) is a life-saving device that evacuates people from a boat or ship quickly and safely. The MES doesn’t take up a lot of space and can usually be deployed by one person, making it ideal for use in an emergency. MES aims to safely evacuate as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time possible.

The MES has 5 main components as follows:

  • Controls – They are used for launching the device in the event of an emergency.
  • Stowage box – This box is attached to the ship and life rafts; it stores supplies and facilitates the egress of passengers from the ship to the raft(s).
  • Chute – The deck-mounted chute apparatus contains the actual chute and other fixed items used during embarkation, like a seat and grab rail.
  • Raft(s) – Generally 1-4 in number, depending on the particular MES system.
  • Bowsing winch – It’s attached to the ship and is used to bow the raft into the ship.

Means of communication can be divided into two categories: visual and audible. Some examples are given below.


  • Light signals, typically LED or lamps
  • Hand signals.


  • Verbal (i.e., unamplified voice)
  • Radio-based
  • Klaxon/horn/whistle/bullhorn

There are four stages to an effective abandon ship procedure:

Stage 1: Notification and Mustering

Everyone on board is notified that they must evacuate the vessel by sounding the alarm. Muster instructions should be given in addition to the distress signal.

Stage 2: Lowering the Abandoned Ship Means Into Water

During this stage, the MES is deployed into the water. Releasing a catch or handle allows the chute and rafts to slide into the water.

Stage 3: Embarking

Only the assigned crew should lower the boat into the water using davits or cranes once the side boat and normal lowering procedure are in place.

The safety officer oversees the brake control, which is at the Master’s discretion. The rest of the crew will board using a side pilot ladder; the Master will be last to board.

Stage 4: Debriefing

This stage is only applicable for drills. Following the drill, the safety officer should take everyone on board the drill’s events, ensuring all aspects of its execution are discussed. Equipment usage and lowering/deploying abandoned ship means (boats or rafts) should receive special attention.

Rob Paredes
Article by
Rob Paredes
SafetyCulture Content Contributor
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. Before joining SafetyCulture, he worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade. Rob's diverse professional background allows him to provide well-rounded, engaging content that can help businesses transform the way they work.