Is it a lifeboat? Is it a liferaft? No. It's a new super-sized, super-flexible evacuation system from VIKING, a revolutionary hybrid that brings together the best of lifeboats and liferafts in one.
Marine and fire safety equipment leader VIKING Life-Saving Equipment is excited to launch its latest innovation, the VIKING LifeCraft™ system.
In 2009, inspired by discussions during sessions of the Safecraft Working Group, VIKING's development teams asked themselves a tough but exciting question. What if it were possible to build a lifesaving craft that combined all of the advantages of modern lifeboats such as self-propelled manoeuvrability with the flexibility, comfort and smaller footprint of today's liferafts? And what if such a craft could enable rapid, mass evacuation with maximum safety for passengers and crew? The challenge of answering these questions was the spark that set off an ambitious, four-year long journey to reach an amazing result: the VIKING LifeCraft™ System.
The LifeCraft™ System consists of two main elements: The LifeCraft™ itself – a self-propelled inflatable vessel with four engines for a high degree of manoeuvrability and safety and a storing and launching unit, either placed on deck or built in, containing up to four LifeCraft™ units with a capacity of 200 persons each, for a total capacity of 800 persons.
According to VIKING vice president Niels Fraende, this is a product that completely changes the lifeboat versus liferaft discussion, at least when it comes to high-capacity evacuation systems. "Today's larger and wider vessels mean that the number of passengers and the variation in trim height and list conditions can be enormous in a distress situation," says Fraende. "The LifeCraft™ is a hugely flexible evacuation system that can cope with such extremes."
There are more advantages of this hybrid solution. For example, the new LifeCraft™ System is safe on an entirely new level, too. A specially designed chute system helps evacuees with special needs, such as children, the elderly and those on stretchers, setting a new standard for full-spectrum marine evacuation.
And it's not just the life-saving capabilities of the new LifeCraft™ System that are hitting the headlines in shipowner circles. The system also takes up less room than lifeboats, freeing deck space for shipowners keen to provide their passengers with more cabins, shopping opportunities and other journey enhancements.