BG Verkehr / Dienststelle Schiffssicherheit
Seeärztlicher Dienst
Brandstwiete 1
20457 Hamburg

Phone: +49 40 361 37-365
Fax: +49 40 361 37-333

Dr. Jörg Abel
Phone: +49 40 36137-336
Fax: +49 40 36137-333

Rescue in case of hypothermia

Rescue in case of hypothermia

To go overboard is every seafarer’s nightmare. Already the first three minutes are decisive: the sudden cold stimulus causes the person who has fallen into the water to breathe faster (hyperventilation). This in turn increases the danger of drowning. If this first phase has been survived – for example because a life jacket is worn that turns an unconscious person face-up– the next problem follows: the danger of hypothermia. Already after a few minutes the muscles start to stiffen. Usually, when the body temperature falls below 30°C a person will become unconscious. Hypothermic persons have to be retrieved in a horizontal position to avoid the so called rescue-collapse.

Further information on rescue and salvage equipment for persons who have fallen overboard can be found under "Life-saving appliances".

Tips on the right measures after a fall into cold water are given in a guide by the IMO (MSC.1/Circ.1185/Rev.1) as well as the article of the magazine “Schiff & Hafen” (in German only).

bild rettung bei unterkühlung

Video about medical first aid in case of hypothermia

This video (in German only) shows the necessary medical first aid after one or more persons have been recovered from the water. The documented measures are essential for the success of the entire rescue operation.

You can find more information about the rescueing and medical treatment of seamen with hypothermia on the website of the project "SARRRAH" ("Search and Rescue Resuscitation and Rewarming in Accidential Hypthermia"):