KiwiRail’s new InterIslander ferries will feature LifeCraft evacuation systems

Written by Nick Blenkey
Ferry with LifeCraft evacuation system

KiwiRail's two new ferries will incorporate many groundbreaking features — including a groundbreaking passenger evacuation system.

Viking Life-Saving Equipment A/S reports that its LifeCraft vessel evacuation system is now set for installation on its first newbuild vessels. The system, first announced in November 2013, will serve as the main evacuation solution on board two new hybrid-electric Interislander rail-enabled ferries on order for New Zealand’s KiwiRail at Hyundai Mipo Dockyard in South Korea. They will operate across the Cook Strait linking the two main islands of New Zealand and are being built, at a price of USD$369 million each, as part of the Inter-island Resilient Connection (iReX).

LifeCraft at sea
LifeCraft at Sea

The KiWi Rail LifeCraft system includes four 203-person self-propelled inflatable survival craft and an EscapeWay 4-chute system, all stored together in the same unit which can be either placed on deck or built into the side of the vessel, bringing together, says Viking, “the advantages of premium lifeboat, liferaft and evacuation system technology in a revolutionary hybrid solution.”

“During the development process of LifeCraft, compactness has been an important parameter all the way through. For the Interislander ferries as well as any other ship that will be a major asset in terms of both safety, comfort, and the demand for space on deck to utilize for other purposes,” says Niels Fraende, vice president of LifeCraft sales at Viking.

In the case of LifeCraft, compactness also equals saving weight and thus reducing vessel fuel consumption.

“Be it a ferry or a cruise-ship, the integration of safety systems is paramount in the ship-design process, which means that it at times will be a priority at the expense of aesthetics or comfort. This system makes this trade-off irrelevant by offering a solution that – apart from being a state-of-the art safety system – also is both practical, light, and visually appealing,” says Anders Ørgård, CEO at vessel designer OSK-ShipTech.

“When deciding to renew a fleet trusted to serve millions of people, the replacement vessels must exceed traveler expectations and be of the highest standard in terms of quality, technology, efficiency, and safety,” says Massimo Soprano, ships program director, iReX, KiwiRail. “This is also the case for the onboard evacuation systems, which is an area where compromise is never an option. Here, LifeCraft and the innovation and extensive testing backing the system has proved to be an excellent survival craft solution. Beyond potentially providing an increase in safety, the system also saves large amounts of space, weight and time-consuming procedures.”

One of the areas where the Viking LifeCraft system is breaking new ground in general is the digitalization of the entire pre-departure safety-check. Instead of taking up the crew’s time and relying on manual processes such as testing combustible fuel engines, the captain or safety officer has the readiness status of the system available at the touch of a button, direct from the vessel’s bridge, within just a few moments.

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