From the first passenger ship MES to meet new polar code requirements, to the first-ever slide-based system being developed for cruise ships, innovation is a trend within this sector
Innovation is booming within the MES sector of passenger shipping, with several new products being launched or in the final phase of development.
Viking Life-Saving Equipment (Viking) has launched a passenger vessel MES specially to meet the new IMO Polar Code.
As its president of cruise and LifeCraft Niels Fraende told Passenger Ship Technology “We are the first to bring to market a developed system for the polar code, supporting the latest polar code 5 and polar code 6.” He credits Viking’s lengthy experience in the polar region, where its work has included supplying polar equipment for the Russian Navy. “When the polar code came into force last year it was pretty straightforward for us to come to market with something that was built specially for it,” he said.
Introduced at Seatrade Cruise Global in March this year, the Viking VEC Plus Polar has already had orders from cruise ships being both built and delivered this year. Approved to temperatures as low as -30°C, when the temperatures fall to below 5°C, the liferaft will start heating up automatically via electric power hooked onto the ship’s power supply. “This stops food over-icing and water getting frozen, so if an incident happens the raft is ready.”
The system includes 40% fewer mechanical components than earlier MES designs and includes cost-efficiencies for installation and servicing. For instance, the system only requires land-based servicing every 30 months, reducing costs related to administration and logistics.
Mr Fraende added “We ice-tested the VEC Plus Polar at -30C to ensure it will work at the polar service temperature of -20°C typically required for PC-6 Class ships. Released by gravity and featuring measures for controlled descent, the system will launch safely onto ice as well as water.”
He added that the entire system including the associated liferafts has been modified and reinforced to match the extreme conditions under which it may be required to save lives. This includes measures to store polar code mandatory personal and group survival kits along with rations for five-day survival directly at the MES station.
Cruise: first-of-its-kind system
Elsewhere, Survitec is trialling an escape solution never before seen in the cruise ship industry. It is a slide-based escape system, and while similar solutions are available in other shipping sectors such as ferries, the existing solution has yet to be deployed within the cruise industry due to the large size of vessels, their freeboards and beams.
Survitec sales director for marine technical solutions, Richard McCormick told PST “The cruise ship industry is dominated by vertical chute-based systems but has never been able to use incline-slide based systems as design challenges have not allowed current manufacturers to break in to this market.”
But Survitec has overcome these challenges using new technologies developed inhouse, utilising capability found in its aviation and defence divisions.
Survitec demonstrated its existing evacuation SuperSlide in the US for the first time at Seatrade Cruise Global in March this year. The SuperSlide has twin tracks allowing for rapid departure and can safely evacuate 750 people in half an hour. It is designed for vessels with freeboard heights of between 3.8 m and 12.5 m and has a small deck footprint. It can be used in newbuilds and retrofitted to existing ships.
Explaining the benefits of the system, Mr McCormick said “We pursued it for ease of use on behalf of the operator and evacuee, and as slides are naturally instinctive, people know intuitively how to use them and they can see where they start and end. For people who are mobility impaired, there is an element of familiarity and family groups can descend together in full view of each other. This is all a very different experience compared to traditional vertical chute systems.”
He added “The industry is moving towards high functionality systems that inflate themselves – they want everything ready and waiting for them at the push of a button.” The new technology being developed for the cruise industry removes the human element “enormously”.
The company is in the latter stages of the new product’s development and thinks it will be ready within the next 24 months. “We think we have broken through the technical envelope to bring this to cruise vessels,” said Mr McCormick.
He said cruise operators were “extremely excited” about this new form of life saving appliance. “This is a revolution we are bring to the cruise industry in terms of life-saving options.”
Survitec already provides its SuperSlide solutions to the high-speed craft and small to mid-sized ferry markets.
Customers who have purchased the SuperSlide and have it on board their vessels include: Calmac Ferries, Conseil General de la Gironde, French Navy, Norled and Owen Sound Transportation, Egyptian Navy, Ven Trafikken, Delaware River and Bay Authority and Transport Canada/Bay Ferries.
Liferaft Systems Australia (LSA) also has an MES in development, which it is hoping to introduce to market in the first half of 2019. “We can’t say too much about it at the moment, but it is aimed at small to medium ferries and takes the features and benefits of our larger MES regarding very simple operation, compact footprint, lightweight nature and one-stage deployment with no further intervention of crew, into a smaller package,” said LSA European manager Peter Rea.
The company is always refining its existing design and one of the areas it is concerned with is weight. The LSA product was originally launched for the high-speed ferry market, although it is used across different ferries. “We try to use products that are as light as possible and are constantly refining to take the weight out of the product,” Mr Rea said. “Weight is a critical concern for all shipowners.”
The company’s orderbook is booming at the moment, leading it to increase production capacity by 30% at its Hobart headquarters. Mr Rea commented “We have taken on more factory space and reorganised the whole production and packing methods and flow from cutting the product to packing, in response to demand for our product.”
Its current ferry orderbook includes: Molslinjen’s high-speed ferry under construction at Austal, a 110 m, 1,150-passenger high-speed ferry for Virtu Ferries under construction at Incat, and a 109 m, 1,200-passenger high-speed ferry for Naviera Armas, under construction at Incat.
The company has just finished an order for two of BC Ferries’ Spirit-class vessels which have undergone a refit at Remontowa Shipyard in Poland. The original MES systems were replaced with LSA’s solutions. LSA also provided its MES to BC Ferries’ Salish-class vessels, the first of which was delivered last year. “BC Ferries is looking to standardise the LSA being used on their medium to larger ferries,” explained Mr Rea. He pointed out this was a wider trend within the ferry industry.
“The MES is a catch-all, there are many different types from vertical chutes to the inclined slide (like ours), and there are those like ours that are very simple to those that are extremely complicated.
“If you have a variety of different MES it can cause confusion for the crew and prevent flexibility of moving crew within [the fleet] as if the MES are different they will need to be trained.”
He also cited operators benefiting from economies of scale when it came to servicing the liferafts and reduced crew training costs.
Mr Rea summed up “It has got to be safer and a win-win for both OEM and operator. We want to get the message across to the shipowner that the standardising has benefits.”