Taking away complexity and increasing capacity are key themes when it comes to developing lifesaving appliances for passenger ships
Manufacturers of lifesaving appliances are showing a great deal of innovation in their new solutions in response to passenger ship operator demands and new and revised safety requirements.
Viking Life-Saving Appliances, for example, has developed its new VEC Plus evacuation system, which it says represents a complete design upgrade of existing high-capacity marine evacuation systems (MESs).
Its aim was to simplify maintenance and boost long-term durability. “We have seen a tendency for MES systems to become more and more technically complex,” Viking passenger division director Niels Fraende said in an interview with PST at the Seatrade Cruise Global event in March.
Complexity has a downside when it comes to service cost and total cost of ownership, he said, so Viking has created an MEC that “really takes simplicity above complexity”.
To achieve this, Viking cut down the number of components and introduced new access and servicing methods. An example is that when servicing the VEC Plus system, the operator will be able to swap part-elements of it, rather than uninstall the entire system for servicing, saving on logistics, time and costs.
The simplicity of the structure also means that it will be easier to train crew and develop awareness of its functionality, the company believes.
In addition, the MES includes a winch system in it to reduce speed when it is lowered into the water. “This is beneficial for the whole launch process and a very reliable way of doing it,” commented Mr Fraende. “We see this system as a future platform for all types of Viking evacuation systems.”
To make it more durable, the new MES uses more aluminium and rust-free alloys than previous models. This will also ensure that the equipment will look like “a nice product on the promenade after 10 years,” Mr Fraende said. This is important because if, as a passenger, “you pass something that looks rusty”, it does not give the same level of reassurance as if it looked like it came on board recently.
“Our new VEC Plus MEC really takes simplicity above complexity” Niles Fraende (Viking Life-Saving Appliances)
The company has been in dialogue with a few major ship operators about the MES and believes it has “hit a nerve and has a high level of interest,” he said.
Elsewhere, Liferaft Systems Australia (LSA) is also developing new products. LSA North American manager Vlad Prato told PST that the company was in the final stages of approval for a new size of self-righting liferaft that it will offer to the market in August this year. At the time of writing, the company would only say that it would be larger in capacity than its current 100-persons self-righting liferaft.
“We are also in the final stages of development for a new system to cater for low freeboard vessels which will be a breakthrough in design and performance,” Mr Prato added, but declined to offer further details.
In terms of regulatory developments, LSA has been working very closely with several international administrations to ensure that high levels of safety culture are maintained and regulations implemented. “We are concerned with the maximum overall passenger capacity of some ‘novel’ safety products which are being developed by some of our competitors,” said Mr Grainger. “We understand that limitations on capacity are being considered by some administrations and we agree that safety vessels, including lifeboats and inflatable liferafts probably should have additional crew allocated when capacity exceeds a certain number.”
Meanwhile, Italy’s Navalimpianti Tecnimpianti group is supplying lifesaving appliances for a number of cruise ship projects, including MSC Seaside, which is under construction at Fincantieri Monfalcone.
The group is supplying 12 semi-gravity hinged davits for lifeboats (each of at least 313 persons capacity); four semi-gravity hinged davits for combined lifeboat/tenders (each of at least 267 persons capacity as a lifeboat and at least 220 persons as a tender); and two semi-gravity hinged davits for lifeboat/rescue boats (each of at least 60 persons capacity as a lifeboat and six persons capacity as a rescue boat).
Other projects it is involved with include providing fixed outboard launching systems for lifeboats on Carnival Horizon and telescopic davits on Viking Sun and Viking Spirit, which are all under construction at Fincantieri. Its telescopic davits are also being installed on Seabourn Ovation, under construction at Fincantieri’s Sestri shipyard.
This is part of an industry trend; a number of manufacturers of passenger ship lifesaving equipment have been stepping up their marketing of more comprehensive, fleet-wide service plans to shipowners. For example, Viking Life-Saving Appliances has been marketing, with some considerable success, a range of fixed-price service agreements to the passenger shipping sector.
These plans are offered as a way of meeting concerns not only about the unpredictability of costs associated with equipment maintenance and repair but also about ensuring compliance, against a backdrop of changing IMO regulations.
V Group invests in crew crisis training
Training and competence of seafarers to cope with a crisis on passenger ships is so vital that one global shipmanager has invested in developing these skills in its crew.
V Group is tackling the challenge of managing thousands of passengers on cruise ships during a crisis through crew training. Its own specialist training business, Marlins, has worked with the passenger shipmanagement arm, V Ships Leisure, to develop computer-based learning courses.
Marlins has written two e-learning courses to help prepare crew for managing a crisis. It has gained approval from flag states for its three courses on Crisis Management, Human Behaviour and Crowd Management. These also help seafarers meet the relevant sections of IMO’s Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping convention.
Hundreds of people on a passenger ship will rely on the crew in a crisis so it is critical that those crew can handle pressure and manage the situation so they can lead passengers to safety. Marlins manager Catherine Logie said the training is critical for seafarers to manage a real emergency.
“We created a learning experience that requires the participant to make decisions in role play scenarios that replicate as closely as possible the environment of a real-life emergency on a passenger ship,” she explained.
These courses are available on the Marlins learning management system. They are approved by the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency, Liberian Register and Dominican Maritime Authority.
MES orderbook one of largest ever for LSA
LSA’s MES order book stretches to 2021 and the company has been expanding to accommodate this increasing workload. LSA managing director Mike Grainger said: “This is possibly the busiest that LSA has been since we started the company 25 years ago (the company will celebrate 25 years of operation in September this year). We have increased our employee numbers and restructured our production facility to ensure that our quality levels are maintained and our output is not compromised”.
Some of current LSA’s orderbook contracts for its MESs include:
- Mols Linien’s high speed ferry under construction at Austal
- Vigor Shipyard’s144 car ferry for Washington State Ferries
- Vigor Shipyard’s two Alaska Class ferries for Alaska Marine Highway
- Alaska Marine Highway’s ropax Lituya
- A 110m, 1,150 passenger high speed ferry for Virtu Ferries, under construction at Incat
- A 109m, 1,200 passenger high speed ferry for Naviera Armas, under construction at Incat
- Two of BC Ferries’ Spirit-class vessels undergoing refit at Remontowa Shipyard in Poland.