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Rescue Boats (SOLAS)




APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  The requirements for USCG approved SOLAS rescue boats and fast rescue boats* are contained in Title 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Subpart 160.156. USCG approved SOLAS rescue boats and fast rescue boats under approval series 160.156 are primarily evaluated to the standards of the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Resolution MSC.48(66), amended, entitled "International Life-Saving Appliance (LSA) Code", as referenced by the Safety at Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), Chapter III. Prototype test procedures are found in IMO Resolution MSC.81(70), amended, entitled "Revised Recommendation on Testing of Life-Saving Appliances". These IMO Resolutions, along with their amendments through 2010, are incorporated by reference in 46 CFR 160.156-7, and are published by the IMO in a handbook entitled, "Life-Saving Appliances, 2010 Edition", available for purchase from IMO publication distributors world-wide.

The Coast Guard does not test materials or systems for approval or acceptance but rather specifies the required test methods and minimum performance criteria for either approval or acceptance for installation in USCG approved SOLAS rescue boats and fast rescue boats. See the links below for more information. Product testing in most cases must be performed by a Coast Guard accepted Independent Laboratory, a list of the currently accepted independent laboratories for equipment requiring their involvement for approval is located here:

The Coast Guard also maintains standards for domestic (non-SOLAS) rescue boats under 46 CFR 160.056, which are allowed to be carried under certain conditions on vessels with lakes, bays, & sounds, or rivers routes. Please see 46 CFR Part 199, Subpart E.

*SOLAS fast rescue boats are only required on Roll-On/Roll-Off (Ro-Ro) ferries, carrying passengers and their vehicles on international routes. A USCG approved SOLAS fast rescue boat may be installed as a conventional SOLAS rescue boat on vessels other than Ro-Ro passenger ferries when not installed with a fast rescue boat launching appliance.

Fire Retardant Resin
Required Equipment
Accepted Engine List
Rescue Boat Checklist

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please submit the follow information in the Submittal Package:

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time the period if product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


The Coast Guard uses the IMO requirements for acceptance of buoyancy material for SOLAS lifeboats and rescue boats.   These same materials may be used in some ring buoys, life floats, buoyant apparatus, and the like.  (For some domestic applications, materials meeting the 46 CFR 160.035 Mil specifications may also be used.)

For acceptance of any material, we must have a full detailed test report, not just an approval certificate or other certification.  We cannot proceed without the complete report.  An accepted independent laboratory or a ship classification society does NOT need to witness the tests.

The IMO tests are in section 6.2 of the IMO Recommendation on Testing (A.689)

We encourage you to use the IMO Test Report Forms for Lifeboat Buoyant Materials – 4.3.3 LIFEBOAT BUOYANT MATERIAL, EVALUATION AND TEST REPORT to report your results.

An acceptable submittal in accordance with the above procedure will be added to our list of USCG accepted buoyancy material for use in SOLAS rescue boats and survival craft.


Q – Will the Coast Guard accept our material based on a Class Society or foreign administrations approval/acceptance?
A – No, we do not accept materials based on others’ approval certificates/documents, unless you submit the complete test report for the material that was the basis for the acceptance.

Q -- Shall we do a whole new test - following the IMO-recommendation?
A – Yes, if you do not have a complete report from an earlier test, a complete new test will be required for SOLAS material acceptance.

Q -- Who and where will you recommend the test to be carried out?
A -- The tests may be performed in the manufacturer's lab.

Q -- What is the estimated costs to get the U.S. Coast Guard approval?
A -- There is not a USCG fee at present.

Q -- Can we make foam samples with our own machinery, or shall it be produced at the boat manufacturer?
A -- You may use your own machinery provided it produces the same product that boat builders will produce.

Q – Does my report need to be written in English?
A – Yes.

Q – May I run some tests on one batch of material and other test on a different batch of material?
A -- In general, all the tests should be run on material from the same batch/lot or better, each test on the same group of batches/lots.  Otherwise there is no way to know how variations in the material are affecting the results.

Q - What is the difference between diesel fuel and fuel oil?
A – IMO Resolution A.689 has been revised to add the "grades" of oil as follows:

6.2.3  In addition to the test in 6.2.2, specimens of the material should be immersed in each of the following for a period of 14 days under a 100 mm head:

.1         two specimens in crude oil;
.2         two specimens in marine fuel oil (grade C);
.3         two specimens in diesel oil (grade A);
.4         two specimens in high octane petroleum spirit; and
.5         two specimens in kerosene.

The "grade" ratings do not appear to be any ASTM or other USA specification but are ISO specifications (refer to ISO standards ISO 8216 and ISO 8217 - Petroleum products).  "Bunker C" is a common terminology used in ships' fuels.  We would accept test results run with Bunker C.

An adequate test report and documentation for approval should include the following:

The testing laboratory shall prepare a complete test report covering all of the testing done for assessment of the buoyant material.  (This test report shall be kept on file, as long as the acceptance is in force, and for at least five years after the acceptance is terminated.  The testing facility shall also keep a set of drawings and specifications describing the material inspected and tested.  The test report, drawings, and specifications shall be made available on request to the Coast Guard.  The test report should include:

            (1) The name of the manufacturer.
            (2) The name and address of the testing facility or laboratory.
            (3) The trade name, product designation (such as model numbers), and a brief description of the equipment and/or material inspected or tested.
            (4) The time, date, and place of each approval inspection and test.
            (5) The name and title of each person performing, supervising, and witnessing the inspections or tests.
            (6) The performance data for each test, including a description of each failure.
            (7) A description or photographs of the procedures and apparatus used in the inspections or tests, or a reference to another document that contains an appropriate description or photographs.
            (8) At least one photograph that shows an overall view of the equipment or material submitted for approval and other photographs that show:

                        (i) Design details; and
                        (ii) Each occurrence of damage or deformation to the equipment or material that occurred during the approval tests.

The above list is basically the same as 46 CFR 159.005-11.


These searchlights are required to meet requirements described in the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Lifesaving Appliances Code and Recommendation on Testing of Lifesaving Appliances.  Currently, lifeboat and rescue boat manufacturers are responsible for making sure that the searchlights they supply with their boats meet these requirements.  Replacement searchlights should be identical to the original or meet ASTM F1003.
The searchlight must be permanently mounted on the canopy or must have a stanchion-type or collapsible-type, portable mounting on the canopy. The mounting must be located to enable operation of the searchlight by the boat operator.   The searchlight's power source must be capable of operating the light without charging or recharging for not less than:

(a) Three hours of continuous operation; or
(b) Six hours total operation when it is operated in cycles of 15 minutes on and 5 minutes off.

If the searchlight's power source is an engine starting battery, there must be sufficient battery capacity to start the engine at the end of either operating period specified in A or B, above.  The searchlight's power source must be connected to the searchlight using watertight electrical fittings.


Retro-reflective materials should be fitted on top of the gunwale as well as on the outside of the boat as near the gunwale as possible. The materials should be sufficiently wide and long to give a minimum area of 150 cm2 and should be spaced at suitable intervals (approximately 80 cm from centre to centre). If a canopy is fitted, it should not be allowed to obscure the materials fitted on the outside of the boat, and the top of the canopy should be fitted with retro-reflective materials similar to those mentioned above and spaced at suitable intervals (approximately 80 cm centre to centre). In the case of partially enclosed or totally enclosed lifeboats, such materials should be placed as follows:

.1 for detection by horizontal light beams - at suitable intervals at half the height between the gunwale and the top of the fixed cover; and
.2 for detection by vertical light beams (e.g. from helicopters) - at suitable intervals around the outer portion of the horizontal (or comparable) part of the top of the fixed cover;.3 retro-reflective materials should also be fitted on the bottom of lifeboats and rescue boats which are not self-righting.  

retroreflectibve material for lifeboats

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Last Modified 9/6/2013