How a safety innovation is delivering design freedom

New, compact evacuation systems give designers the opportunity to create better onboard spaces

How a safety innovation is delivering design freedom
Viking’s LifeCraft system takes up just a quarter of the space needed by a rigid lifeboat with similar capacity

By Jan Krefting |

Emergency survival craft are critical equipment onboard any vessel, but the location of lifeboats close to key guest amenities has always been a major challenge for cruise ship designers.  

This is one reason YSA Design has long tracked the development of LifeCraft, the innovative evacuation solution from Viking Life-Saving Equipment. We have discussed the space-saving potential for its combination of evacuation chutes and electrically propelled, inflatable life craft with clients on multiple occasions, and of the comparable Seahaven concept from Survitec.  

Both solutions seek to replace a ship’s rigid-hull lifeboats with systems that can be fitted on deck or built into the side of the hull. Viking receiving its first order to install LifeCraft onboard KiwiRail’s two new Interislander ferries for the Cook Strait is therefore highly significant. Although YSA Design is not involved, it believes the project has wide implications for cruise ship design. 

If the lack of lifeboats and davits is immediately evident in the side profile of the Interislander renderings, YSA Design is interested in exploring the design freedom concepts like LifeCraft offer to rethink not only aesthetics and comfort, but also public spaces, amenities and cabin capacity at prime locations amidships. A cruise ship designer, for example, could propose relocating or dispensing with the promenade deck.  

At the deeper level, these concepts integrate the safety system into general arrangement development itself at a time when a new generation of lower carbon fuels is creating additional challenges for shipboard storage capacity. Designers would also be at liberty to consider relocating evacuation embarkation points or rearranging spaces across multiple decks.  

Both LifeCraft and Survitec Seahaven are type approved by Lloyd’s Register, and the Viking system is also flag approved by the Danish Maritime Authority. Nevertheless, cruise lines may prove resistant to using evacuation devices that are stowed away and are less visible than traditional lifeboats. Perhaps some will prefer to wait until the Interislander ferries are on the water before revisiting the inflatable proposition. However, with the newly pressing space imperatives onboard cruise ships, others may be ready to reconsider more quickly.  

Jan Krefting is chairman of YSA Design  

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.

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