The free-fall lifeboat is quickly becoming a common lifesaving appliance on ships and offshore facilities. Although a free-fall lifeboat has never been launched from a vessel in distress, free-fall lifeboats were successfully launched and recovered in a seaway during two separate maritime rescues. Discussed in this paper are the basic behavior of free-fall lifeboats, considerations when using free-fall lifeboats on ships, the relative economics of free-fall lifeboat systems compared with conventional davit-launched lifeboat systems, and anticipated improvements in safety afforded by free-fall lifeboats during an emergency.

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