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Monday, November 19, 2018 

The Viking LifeCraft system has passed an important milestone in its journey to commercial use following the conclusion of a demanding full-scale Heavy Weather Sea Trial (HWST) in rough seas with wave heights up to 50% above the stipulated heavy weather testing requirements.

The wave heights are said to have proved no obstacle for the LifeCraft system, paving the way for cruise ship operators to benefit from this hybrid system - intended to replace lifeboats/liferafts.

Developed and tested by Viking Life-Saving Equipment over the past 10 years, the new evacuation system combines the advantages of modern lifeboats – such as self-propelled manoeuvrability – with the flexibility, comfort and smaller footprint of today’s liferafts combined with marine evacuation systems.

The solution comprises two main elements: four inflatable survival craft each with a capacity of 203 persons, so 812 in total, and a self-contained stowage and launching appliance either placed on deck or built into the ship’s side.

“The HWST involved launching and testing how well the LifeCraft system performs in high winds, stormy seas and extreme weather conditions,” explained Niels Fraende, VP Cruise & LifeCraft. “We launched the LifeCraft with the ship heading 3 knots up against the wind, exposing the system to the full force of the fierce weather in the most critical test phase. We then demonstrated – with a simulated dead ship condition – that the fully loaded LifeCraft system provides a safe and stable means of evacuation in both the weather and lee side for several hours.

“In addition, we quickly and successfully manoeuvred the LifeCraft survival crafts on both sides of the vessel to a safe distance, demonstrating their built-in flexibility to move rescue-capacity to wherever it is most needed. Simulating station-keeping while waiting for rescue, we performed a 24-hour controlled drift test in the battering seas with no damage sustained to the survival crafts.”

At the testing location on the North Sea, after being ballasted with 70 tons to simulate full capacity, the LifeCraft was subjected to wind gusts with speeds of up to 18 m/s in addition to significant wave heights of between 3.6m and 4.6m. Peak waves of 10m greatly exceeded the required 3m needed for the trials.

The HWST consisted of multiple phases, all of which were witnessed and approved by the attending DNV GL senior surveyor acting on behalf of the Danish Maritime Authority.

“The LifeCraft exhibited superior manoeuvrability, sailing away from the ship much faster than required. We achieved this with the wind at our front as well as our backs, which makes it an even more impressive feat,” said Fraende.

The tests demonstrated that the system’s flexible chute arrangement could cope with the ship’s list and trim, providing stability despite the dynamic sea state. With its four electric motors, one positioned at each corner, the fully loaded LifeCraft was manoeuvred to a safe position within minutes of disengagement from its position along the ship’s side. The trial afforded crew members the opportunity to demonstrate, under extreme conditions, the capability of the chute arrangements that provide a controlled vertical passage from the embarkation point to the LifeCraft survival crafts.

The four inflatable survival craft are powered by electric motors instead of diesel-driven units, which enable manoeuvrability and are quieter in operation and  require less maintenance. From a ship design perspective, the system takes up around 25% less deck space than lifeboats of equivalent capacity. By enabling the positioning of evacuation capacity on both sides of a ship, the system surpasses SOLAS requirements and allows greater flexibility in vessel design.

Tests of the system’s container, along with documentation and final approval by the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA) will be required before the system can be incorporated into new and existing vessels.

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