You hope to never to have to use your inflatable life-rafts, but if you ever do, they need to be ready and working without hassle. Of course, the trouble with products that are rarely, if ever, used is that they sometimes get forgotten about and neglected. That’s why regular life-raft servicing is vital for safety, longevity and legal conformity.
What Is A Life Raft Service Check?
Before and after making any alterations or repairs to a life-raft, it is necessary to test whether it’s functioning. Thorough testing determines if the raft will perform properly when required. In practice, there are two main functional tests: inflation and non-leakage.
Initially, the life-raft must inflate to its full operating pressure within a prescribed time. The buoyancy tubes will need to be free of tears or breakages to be inflated fully and the gas inflation devices need to be working correctly. The tests must verify performance to the expected operating parameters. Typically, that means using cylinders with up to 450 bar test pressure and activation loads of between 60-100 newtons. Activation should be triggered by variable lanyard speeds and for devices that are water activated, that function also needs to be verified.
If the inflation device features a pressure gauge, then its readings need to be verified with an independently certified test rig. Other aspects of the inflation process must also be checked including gas inlet valves that need to be working correctly, as well as any internal equalisation valves between the raft’s buoyancy chambers.
Once inflated, the raft must retain its inflation level without leaks for a prescribed period. These tests should be conducted in accordance with IMO Resolution A.761 (18), and if any parts of the raft fail then they must be replaced or repaired.
Why Is Servicing So Important?
It hardly needs to be said that a working life-raft can save lives. So, while servicing may not have many direct results, and can seem like an unnecessary expense, you’ll be very glad of it should the worst happen out at sea.
However, confidence in your vessel’s safety is not the only good reason for a service inspection. Regular servicing increases the life expectancy of your emergency life-rafts and can ultimately save you money by extending your replacement schedule. The correct life-raft servicing period will depend on the manufacturers guidelines and can be annual, biennial or longer.
Who Should Conduct Life Raft Servicing?
Life-raft servicing should always be carried out by a certified technician. In addition to meeting all the legal requirements for life-raft servicing, they will also be an expert in the correct handling of inflatables. Life rafts need to be stowed away correctly for rapid inflation when needed, and any incorrect folds can affect the inflation or cause damage to the tubes. Also, since life-rafts may be stowed with additional items for safety and sustenance, these should be packed up with the raft. However, it’s vital to store items correctly as failing to do so can cause damage to the material of the raft and could even lead to injury as the device inflates.
At Leafield Marine, we design and supply safe and compliant life raft and inflatable structure inflation systems for a wide range of applications. To find out more or to discuss your requirements, please call 01225 899550 today.