IMO panel learns more about Viking's LifeCraft concept

MARCH 30, 2015 — Viking Life-Saving Equipment has taken an important step towards gaining approval for its Viking LifeCraft, an innovative alternative life-saving appliance (LSA) for passenger ships.

The concept was presented to IMO's Sub-Committee on Ships Systems and Equipment in London last week, with the full support of the Danish Maritime Authority. More than 180 delegates attended to learn more about the concept from Niels Fraende, Viking Life-Saving Equipment vice president and Henning Luhmann, head of naval architecture at shipbuilder Meyer Werft.

Essentially, explained Mr. Fraende, LifeCraft is a hybrid lifeboat/liferaft system, designed to combine the advantages of both. Self-propelled, with four battery-powered electrical motors, one at each corner, each survival craft unit is fully equipped as a lifeboat, with a fire retardant canopy and a simple steering system that offers a high degree of maneuverability.

Each craft has the capacity for 200 persons in an ergonomically-designed and secure seating arrangement. Tests have demonstrated that the construction is highly stable in sea states up to Beaufort 6+, while rapid acceleration and high bollard pull makes it easy to pull clear of the mother vessel. The launching and embarkation arrangements mean that four units can be stored on deck in a storage container or integrated into the shipside, operated by gravity and stored mechanical power to provide a controlled descent with minimal handling by crew members.

Each LifeCraft system has four "escape ways', with capacity to evacuate 1,816 persons in 30 minutes. However, as a four LifeCraft arrangement would have maximum capacity for 800 persons, there is a capacity safety factor of 2.27, and therefore 800 people can be evacuated in just 15 minutes.

With full prototype testing of the LifeCraft nearly complete, the audience heard that the system has been performing in line with expectations.

Mr. Fraende said the approvals process for the alternative LSA had been "a challenge," but that progress had been made by taking a practical approach to IMO guidelines

Viking Life-Saving Equipment aims to secure the first approvals for the system from flag states by the end of 2015.

"Our focus has been on ensuring operational safety," said Mr. Fraende. "This has been achieved by a combination of controlled, storage, technical simplicity, a simplified operation and easy maneuvering of the craft."

Meyer Werft's Henning Luhmann stressed the importance of innovative products in achieving a successful cruise ship design and in delivering high levels of safety, efficiency and guest satisfaction. He said that a large number of lifeboats could be replaced by the LifeCraft solution, which was attractive to both shipyards and shipowners.

"LifeCraft is a big step forward. The huge reduction in equipment would mean less maintenance and repair, less risk of injuries to crew members, and it would have a major impact on the layout of the ships, including deck heights and steel structures," he said.

Mr. Luhmann pointed out that the selection of LSAs had to be made within the first three months of the design process. The expectation that approvals would not be in place in time had led Meyer Werft to shelve plans to use LifeCraft on one cruise ship newbuilding already, he said.

"IMO needs to do its homework," he told the audience. "The approvals process for new technology is too slow."

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