Viking’s LifeCraft combines benefits of modern lifeboats with flexibility of life rafts (Image: Viking Life-Saving Equipment)
Viking Life-Saving Equipment’s new LifeCraft has passed heavy weather sea trials (HWST) and is soon expected to gain commercial approval from the Danish Maritime Authority following final tests.
Developed and tested by maritime safety equipment and servicing provider Viking over the past 10 years, the new evacuation system combines the features of modern lifeboats, such as self-propelled manoeuvrability, with the flexibility, comfort and smaller footprint of modern life rafts.
The solution comprises two main elements: four inflatable survival crafts, each with a capacity for 203 people, and a fully self-contained stowage and launching appliance that can be placed on deck or built into the ship’s side.
The inflatable crafts are powered by electric motors instead of diesel-driven units. Not only does this improve manoeuvrability, but it also makes the LifeCraft quieter and more reliable, so it requires less maintenance. The motors also reduce the risk of a fire and evacuees’ exposure to fumes.
The system also saves a significant amount of space. By allowing evacuation to take place on both sides of a ship, the system surpasses Safety Of Life At Sea requirements and allows more flexibility in vessel design.
“The HWST involved launching and testing how well the LifeCraft system performs in high winds, stormy seas and extreme weather conditions,” said Niels Fraende, vice president of sales for Cruise & LifeCraft at Viking Life-Saving Equipment. “We launched the LifeCraft with the ship heading three knots up against the wind, exposing the system to the full force of the fierce weather in the most critical test phase. We then demonstrated – with a simulated dead ship condition – that the fully loaded LifeCraft system provides a safe and stable means of evacuation in both the weather and lee side for several hours.”
“In addition, we quickly and successfully manoeuvred the LifeCraft survival crafts on both sides of the vessel to a safe distance, demonstrating their built-in flexibility to move rescue-capacity to wherever it is most needed,” Fraende added. “Simulating station-keeping while waiting for rescue, we performed a 24-hour controlled drift test in the battering seas with no damage sustained to the survival crafts.”
The tests also demonstrated that the system’s flexible chute arrangement could easily cope with the ship’s list and trim, remaining stable despite the turbulent sea. With its four electric motors at each corner, the LifeCraft was swiftly manoeuvred to a safe position within minutes of disengagement from the ship’s side.
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