Another step has been taken in the approval process of Viking’s Hybrid LifeCraft rapid evacuation system following successful conclusion of Heavy Weather Sea Trials (HWST).
The LifeCraft, which has been almost ten years in development, comprises two main elements: four inflatable survival crafts each with a capacity of 203 persons and a fully self-contained stowage and launching appliance either placed on deck or built into the ship’s side. The four survival crafts have electric thruster units at each corner allowing them to manoeuvre under their own power unlike conventional liferafts. It is designed to replace conventional lifeboats and liferafts
Rough seas with wave heights up to 50% above the stipulated heavy weather testing requirements proved no obstacle for the system, paving the way for cruise ship operators worldwide to benefit from all the advantages that this new hybrid - intended to replace lifeboats/liferafts - has to offer.
The HWST took place in the North Sea and involved launching and testing how well the 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 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.”
After being ballasted with 70 tonnes 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 3.6 and 4.6 meters. Peak waves of 10 meters greatly exceeded the required 3 meters needed for the trials, with the personnel from VIKING and DNV GL battling sea-sickness and heaving decks to conclude the tests.
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 tests demonstrated, that the system’s flexible chute arrangement could easily cope with the ship’s list and trim, providing exceptional stability despite the highly dynamic sea state.
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. All landed safely at the expected evacuation speed, dry and unperturbed by the elements.
Viking claims that from a ship design perspective, the system is a significant space-saver, taking up around 25% of the necessary deck space compared to the equivalent capacity in lifeboats. This compact footprint is in itself a compelling argument for cruise ships as it frees up space for additional berths or passenger amenities. Furthermore, by enabling the positioning of evacuation capacity on both sides of a ship, something which simply isn't possible with conventional lifeboats, the system surpasses SOLAS requirements and allows greater overall flexibility in vessel design.
With heavy weather sea trials now complete, all that remains are some tests of the system’s container, along with documentation and final approval by the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA).