Safety principles

The following rules are strictly enforced during IRB/RIB operations:

Personnel must carry the minimum survival equipment and wear the following:

  • In surf conditions in the subantarctic — dry suit with Mustang jacket as a minimum, with suitable hat, boots and gloves. An exception is ship to shore operations, in which personnel may wear their wet weather gear with a life jacket.
  • In calm conditions in pack ice around the Antarctic coast (Davis, Mawson & Casey Stations) — dry suit with Mustang jacket or Mustang flotation suit, with suitable hat, boots and gloves.

No boat operation is to be undertaken that necessitates being at sea later than one hour before sunset.

Except in emergencies, boat operations are only to be undertaken in fine and clear weather with calm or moderate wind and a weather forecast that is favourable. The boat speed and wind speed added together, with spray, can quickly make conditions unbearable.

Engines are to be thoroughly checked and test run for at least five minutes before each journey. If any rough or intermittent running or any other fault is observed the defect must be located and remedied, and a further five-minute test run conducted before proceeding.

Fuel and oil are to be checked and filled before each trip. Use fresh, clean fuel and carry spare. Plan to arrive back at the station with at least 25% of your fuel remaining. If you have doubts about having sufficient fuel, a slower speed is more economical.

On each occasion, one member of the boating party is designated trip leader and is to have complete authority over all other members of the boating party.

A boat is never taken out with a crew of less than two, and always with sufficient man-power to propel the boat by oars in calm waters. It will be extremely difficult to row an inflatable in even a moderate breeze.

Radio schedules are to be prearranged and maintained with a shore base.

Load cargo evenly and not to the point of overload. Stay seated at all times and avoid any unnecessary movement in the boat. Wear hard hats if working under suspended loads.

Always know the location of the nearest safe landing and sheltered water. No matter what you may be engaged in, if any problems occur or there is a change in weather head for the nearest shore and radio your intentions to base.

Avoid close approaches to icebergs as they may collapse or turn over without warning. The standard operating procedure states you may not approach within a distance equal to twice the height of the iceberg.

Beware of the downdraught from helicopters. In smaller boats, and particularly IRB/RIBs, complete loss of control of the craft can occur.


Some saline lakes never freeze, they may be extremely cold and are especially hazardous.