The great liferaft reset

Liferaft servicing is a necessity, not an option, but the currents shifting society from product to service-based are being felt even in this unexpected area.

Back in 2016, a Danish politician caused a surprising stir by predicting in a World Economic Forum blog that - by 2030 - “I don’t own anything. I don’t own a car. I don’t own a house. I don’t own any appliances or any clothes.”

Hi-jacked by conspiracists to portray the WEF as aligned with a theory that the UN ‘Agenda 21’ envisages a world order of totalitarian states hiring out consumer goods, the politician was moved to recalibrate the “all products will become services” prediction as a ‘starting point’ for discussion.

It is certainly a discussion worth having in a society already entirely comfortable with the continuous consumer goods upgrade, and where rental bikes and scooters are picked up and dropped off all over many major cities and music, movies and series consumed on platforms such as Spotify, Netflix and HBO. Ownership still confers control - especially over hidden expenses - but it also brings obligations.

Used in life or death situations, life-saving equipment quality is of paramount importance, although the fact that products are designed, made and serviced to strict standards mean that compliant products from different suppliers will have much in common. However, key attributes remain a matter for preference.

The value of exchange

Dorte Hansen, Vice President Sales Regions, VIKING Life-Saving Equipment, says that liferafts have proved to be one high quality VIKING product where customers increasingly choose rental over ownership.

"In the past, owners very much viewed their liferafts as assets to be owned but, today, a large part of the liferafts we supply are subscription-based. This allows the owner to exchange liferafts when they need to ensure full compliance. Rather than having to unload the liferafts, get them to the service station and wait for service and redelivery, it’s a one step exchange."

Dorte Hansen - Vice President Sales Regions

VIKING has long offered liferaft exchange and the approach has become popular in the passenger and offshore sectors, and especially in the maritime cargo segment, says Dorte. “Sometimes, a client will have an exchange arrangement to deal with issues at a particular port but, increasingly, owners see liferaft exchange taking less time in most if not all ports. “The advantage has been reinforced over recent months, with port congestion such an issue during COVID-19.”

But the shift to liferaft exchange is part of a broader pattern of change in servicing requirements for this most essential of life saving appliances, with flexibility set as the number one priority for VIKING’s planning and service teams.

Welcome to the matrix

VIKING Agreements Team Lead Luise Dohn Holm describes a ‘matrix’ of options through which different customer liferaft service preferences are served. The matrix includes the exchange approach, but also fixed price VIKING Shipowner Agreements covering life saving equipment, whose purpose is to take the hassle out of safety equipment upkeep and deliver compliance as a service. The agreements allows the client to choose from a number of fixed price options, deploy either rented or owned liferafts, and select the liferaft exchange option for instant turnaround.

"The shipowner agreements have been very successful with customers, offering the type of transparency they seek to avoid hidden costs in their servicing arrangements"

Luise Dohn Holm - Team Lead, VIKING Agreements

Increasingly in the service mix are the digital technologies which support greater remote oversight of assets and ensure that the right equipment is in place at all times to uphold safety requirements, says Luise. Today, for example, a digital portal in set up for onboarded clients to check on the compliance status of their equipment at all times and establish whether equipment coming up for recertification is booked in via VIKING’s central planning system.

The extended service economy

Another variable she identifies as increasing in significance has been growing owner preference for 30-month service intervals for liferaft, in line with class certification which is acceptable to an increasing number of IMO flag states.

VIKING supplies and services liferafts on both standard 12-month (S12) and extended 30-month (S30) service interval liferafts in all types and sizes.

First formalized by IMO in 2009, the 30-month service provision remains a guideline for approval by individual administrations, with liferafts certified on the extended basis after they have been serviced at an approved servicing station. Initially, it is limited to the first 10 years of a liferaft’s time in service, although this may be extended if real time verification justifies acceptance by the Administration.

While some administrations continue with the previous regime, where the service interval is 12 months but extensions can be applied for, Dorte says the 30-month regime makes planning ahead simpler for the supplier, its service stations and the owner.

The initial appetite for change came from the cruise and ferry sectors, she says, but all customer types are now making S30 liferafts part of their thinking.

“Getting liferafts off offshore rigs is a cumbersome business, for example, so if the service interval can be increased to 30 months, it’s a maintenance gain,” says Dorte. Some clients prefer to maintain a mix of S30 and S12 units, and this is also fully accommodated within VIKING’s servicing regime.

Upholding the 30-month service interval requires a supplementary annual liferaft inspection by certified crew members, she acknowledges. However, VIKING has also built simplicity into the check for CO2 and humidity within the liferaft’s sealed aluminum bag. A power-free, magnetic testing tool is inserted in the liferaft container’s transparent panel, which shows green - for compliant - or red.

“Where delivering safety and continuous compliance as a service is concerned, every effort should be made to ensure that the user is encouraged towards greater vigilance and more frequent checking of liferaft readiness for action,” says Dorte.

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