Today we understand that all ships must have enough lifeboats for everyone on board just in case disaster strikes. In 1909 however, lifeboats were used to gradually get people off of a ship that was in distress and transfer those people to a rescue ship once it had arrived. They were never intended to support all passengers on the ocean indefinitely.
The original head designer of the Olympic Class ships, Alexander Carlisle, did in fact envision a way to have enough lifeboats for everyone on board using new davits developed by the Welin company. Carlisle's concept design suggested 48 to 64 lifeboats per ship.
Bruce Ismay disagrees with Carlisle, saying that so many lifeboats could cause passengers to worry, and would only be obstructions on the deck. The exact conversation between Ismay and the Harland & Wolff design team regarding the number of lifeboats has been a continued debate. In the end, Olympic and Titanic just barely exceeded the law with 20 lifeboats per ship.
Olympic and Titanic Lifeboat Details
14- Wooden Clinker-Built Lifeboats (65 person capacity)
2- Wooden Cutter Emergency Lifeboats (40 person capacity)
4- Engelhardt Collapsible Lifeboats (47 person capacity)