Article

Recovery of Persons in Water (PIW) Guide to Good Practice for Small Vessels


published on 22 November 2022 202 -

The British Tugowners Association are pleased to release to industry is latest guidance release, Recovery of Persons in Water (PIW) Guide to Good Practice for Small Vessels.

The Guide to Good Practice is available as a free pdf for use across the industry.

The BTA Chairman, Scott Baker from Svitzer, when releasing the Guide at the BTA’s Annual Safety Seminar on 10 November, stated that

“The guide looks to debunk and demystify various myths and fallacies within the industry, spurring on open debate and discussion with the intent being to save lives. For their expertise and input the BTA extends special thanks to Paul Savage OBE, Managing Director Saviour Medical Ltd, Professor Mike Tipton MBE from University of Portsmouth, and the Workboat Association Safety Forum.”

The intent of the guide is not limited to tugs but applicable across the small boat sector, whether crew transfer vessels, pilot cutters, workboats or tugs, many of which share similar characteristics and equipment.

The BTA’s Technical Committee has for over a year been working on reviewing the task of recovering people from the water to small vessels and appraising the equipment typically found in the small vessel sector. The end goal being to arrive at a complementary suite of equipment which can be used to effect a rescue across the four stages of recovery.


  1. Making a connection to the casualty
  2. Getting the casualty under control
  3. Recovery of the casualty to the deck
  4. Medical care and post rescue support on board

Key areas of discussion:


  • the ineffectiveness and potential of lifejackets without crotch straps
  • Cold Water Immersion, its effects and incorrect confusion with hypothermia
  • the truth around vertical and horizontal rescue
  • protection for the rescuer(s) on board
  • demystifying Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs)
  • post recovery trauma and support
  • standardising the handover/transfer of the casualty to emergency services (ATMIST)

The guide stresses the importance of effective and realistic drills and training, a historical idea captured by Archilochus c. 650 BC who wrote, “We do not rise to the level of our expectation; we fall to the level of our training”,  yet repeatedly is found to be wanting in accident reports and investigations.

Professor Mike Tipton MBE, FTPS, from the Extreme Environments Laboratory, at the University of Portsmouth provided the foreword, commenting:

“Immersion in cold water represents a serious threat to life. But this threat can be significantly reduced with the correct knowledge, procedures, equipment, and training. This comprehensive guide provides the information needed to significantly reduce the chances of a tragedy if an individual goes overboard. It follows that reading this guide, and implementing the recommendations contained herein could, quite literally, be lifesaving. 

In the area of cold water survival, knowledge = survivability. 

I commend this Guide to Good Practice to you, and the knowledge it provides.”

The BTA wish for the Guide to be an iterative document, which will be reviewed and updated over time. As such, feedback and comments are invited to the Secretariat at rmerrylees@ukchamberofshipping.com.

The GTGP follows earlier publications for the BTA Technical Committee which include the Second Edition of the Pilot’s Pocket Guide and Checklist, released January 2022 (available here), and the BTA’s Rope Selection, Procurement and Usage Guidance for Tow Ropes, released July 2021 (available here).

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PN
Paul Nevins USA
on 4 April 2023, 21:02 UTC

Years back, a rig went over with people (skeleton crew). Those who went into the water managed to climb a cargo net onto a tanker under their own power. They started the walk back to the accommodation, also under their own power. One by one they "dropped to the deck" in defib. This was long prior to the portable defibrillators. Had they been treated as "the walking wounded" and told to lay down on deck. Wait to be carried back to the accommodation? Quite possibly, they would have survived. The booklet on the topic as a "brief" was by the Doctor who reviewed the incident (post incident). He had also led a group doing hypothermia & related in the Himalayas (circa late 1970's/early 1980's).
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PN
Paul Nevins USA
on 4 April 2023, 20:45 UTC

As a survivor of cold water immersion (1987 Feb, Off New England, US) found back then, few seemed to understand the issues/effects. How much has changed through the years? One likely reference source now would be "DAN" (divers alert network, dan.org). Their primary focus is towards diving but cold water immersion is cold water immersion. In that incident, leak at neck seal for dry suit - numbed on the way in down the base of neck & spine. Suit flooded to waist level. Flooded region swelled (baggy painters pants were like spandex skin tight) for weeks with impact across 2+ yrs. People diving with were "just about out" of air in their tanks yet I came out with very much still in tank. Slowed body systems in everyway possible. Remember very little of the day. Apply that to someone in life jacket without "in water attire"? Cannot help themselves. Must assume either unconscious or functionally useless. In my home region, "Jason Cradles" are on the response boats for quick / 1 person needed to operate for 5:1 weight ratio for recovery. Comes in multiple sizes based on the vessel hull/freeboard. Yes, have used them for drills & teaching (gone for the recovery ride (hauled out) several times). Simple, durable, nothing to inflate (or be cut)....
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