This chapter reviews the aspects the design of current sea-survival equipment, focuses on the physiology and specific hazards of cold water immersion, including rescue and recovery operations, introduces briefly in the most important aspects of re-warming, reviews distress and abandoning ship procedures, underlines important aspects of survival in life-rafts and closes with a discussion of main aspects of humanitarian support for displaced people and refugees at sea.
Over the last decades scientific knowledge about immersion in cold water has increased significantly. This has led to modifications and significant technological progress in sea survival material and procedures (1). Abandoning a ship in distress is followed by a more or less prolonged period of using rescue equipment, primarily lifejackets, immersion suits, life-rafts or small boats. Once people are on these little platforms the hazardous situation is not really solved. Unprotected cold water immersion below 15°C is life-threatening from the start. Floating devices and protective garments are crucial. However all items of protective equipment must fit together and perform effectively. Getting wet inside an immersion suit reduces the chances for survival significantly. Sitting wet inside a life-raft without a vaporisation barrier has the same effect.
Survival at sea is not only a matter of material and procedures; it is especially a matter of leadership and discipline.