Guidelines for lifting operations:

The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) is the international trade association representing offshore, marine and underwater engineering companies.

IMCA promotes improvements in quality, health, safety, environmental and technical standards through the publication of information notes, codes of practice and by other appropriate means.

Members are self-regulating through the adoption of IMCA guidelines as appropriate. They commit to act as responsible members by following relevant guidelines and being willing to be audited against compliance with them by their clients.

There are two core activities that relate to all members:

  •  Safety, Environment & Legislation

Training, Certification & Personnel Competence The Association is organised through four distinct divisions, each covering a specific area of members’ interests: Diving, Marine, Offshore Survey, Remote Systems & ROV. 
There are also four regional sections which facilitate work on issues affecting members in their local geographic area – Americas Deepwater, Asia-Pacific, Europe & Africa and Middle East & India.

  • IMCA SEL 019, IMCA M 187
    These guidelines were prepared for IMCA under the direction of
    its Marine Division Management Committee. IMCA thanks its members for their valuable contributions in developing this document.



IMCA’s Crane & Winch Operations Workgroup (established under the Marine Division Management Committee) has developed this guidance primarily for subsea lifting operations, but the principles described are relevant to all offshore lifting operations and generically to lifting operations anywhere.

On a typical vessel, lifting is endemic to operations and ranges from lifting of stores and spares handling through to complicated and heavy lifts. One survey showed that there could be more than 200 different lifting operations on a vessel. Each lifting operation has a risk of injury to people. Although many tasks are repetitive and of low risk, a percentage of them will be of greater risk and will require appropriate scrutiny and input to reduce risks to an acceptable level.

It is worth noting that many accidents occur in what are perceived as low risk everyday operations. It is therefore important to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place to try to ensure that lifting teams remain alert to all likely risks regardless of the ease or difficulty of an operation.

The guidance offers basic criteria. It is based on existing practice collated from major companies, adopts improved methods for lifting and is intended to be of use for world-wide operations.

This guidance is intended to show essential components that should be included in company procedures for lifting operations and offers advice on the steps within a lifting operation process that will promote safety.

Member companies use their procedures in operations internationally, supplemented, if necessary, by any additional local regulatory demands.

This document can be applied to all vessels, their support bases and other shore operations. The main objective is that, regardless of location, if each step of the process outlined in this guidance is followed and suitably applied then every lift should be carried out in a safe manner because it is:

  •  completed within an appropriate management system;
  •   properly planned;
  •  risk assessed;
  •   supervised; and
  •  completed with competent personnel and the proper equipment.


Summary of Guidance

Guidelines for lifting operations

This document contains guidance on the key aspects of a lifting operation:

  •   personnel involved in planning a lifting operation (section 3);
  •   identifying the lift category (section 4);
  •   operational planning including risk assessments, lift plans, selection of equipment and lifting teams, toolbox talks and post-job actions (section 5); It also provides guidance on:
  •   inspection, examination and marking of equipment (section 6);
  •   maintenance (section 7);
  •   record keeping (section 8); and
  •   provides examples of documents in appendices.

Full PDF lay out of Standard IMCA SEL 019 can be found here.