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Old 07-30-2007, 11:38 PM   #1
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In a different thread Weyelan mentions self servicing of his liferaft. I am keen to know more about this. I have a 6 man, valise packed Plastimo. I have heard so many stories about dodgy liferaft servicing that I feel I have to be there when my LR is being maintained.

This, of course, makes the servicing agent feel distrusted and ill-at-ease. I don't want people standing over me when I am working so I understand how they feel.

What are your experiences with self servicing? How do you source replacement provisions and CO2? What testing procedures do you implement? How often do you service the LR? Is repacking a difficult job?

Also, has anyone any true stories about poor or dangerous practices regarding liferaft servicing agents, or are the stories generally heresay and bar talk?

David.
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Old 07-31-2007, 12:24 AM   #2
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For example, I was told that in the lead up to this year's Ambon race, one yacht took their liferaft in for servicing to comply with race rules, as the survey was out of date since the raft was last serviced overseas 4 years ago.

I am told the servicing agent popped the liferaft only to find a hardcase filled with an inoperable liferaft of a different brand which had been stuffed into the case along with some long outdated provisions and supplies.

This story may or may not be true, but it is an example which highlights my concerns.... (This is why I used to pack my own chute back when I had so few brains that I used to leap from aeroplanes in flight).

David.
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Old 07-31-2007, 12:43 AM   #3
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Copied from the other thread

Hmmm.

This is a tricky one. I should start off by admitting that I primarily design liferafts and marine evacuation systems for a living, so this puts me in a slightly unique position for servicing my own liferaft. Although my work is generally with large capacity inflatable liferafts (typically 50, 100 & 128 person), essentially the same rules apply to large rafts as small rafts.

There are Internationally accepted standards for design, testing, approval, servicing of inflatable lifeafts. They are strictly controlled by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) and are loosely known as SOLAS and LSA code. If your liferaft is serviced by an approved agent, it should be serviced in accordance with these rules.

Typically, an approved service agent will have been trained, approved & certified by any given liferaft manufacturer, to service specidic equipment. i.e. a technician who is certified to sevice RFD liferafts cannot service zodiac liferafts. Or a technician who is certified to service a 25 person plastimo liferaft may not necessarily be certified to service a 6 man plastimo liferaft. Furthermore, usually, once you are certified for a given brand/type of raft, you need to actually service that given raft with sufficient frequency to keep your certification. How often that frequency is will depend on the manufacturer's requirements. I should point out that I am not certified to service any liferafts (I have underlings fro that!)

Now the whole point of the above is that the system is entirely designed with the commercial vessel in mind. Particularly the commercial passenger vessel. The problem being that (a) operators of commercial passenger vessels will often try to get away with less that exemplary equipment and/or servicing of that equipment, in order to save money. The operators have liferafts because they are legally required to have them and service them becasue they are legally required to do so, not because they want to. In the case of a private vessel owner, his liferaft is there because he chooses to have it, and he services it because it is his life and his crew's lives on the line if he has to use the liferaft. Getting a privately owned liferaft serviced is entirely a matte of personal preference - getting it servied regualrly will not guarantee that it will work, and servicing it less regualrly will not guarantee that it won't.

There are avantages & disadvantages to servicing your own liferaft: Obviously, if you service it yourself, you void any claim you might have over the liferaft's manufacturer if it doesn't fucntion perfectly (however, given the circumstances when you are likely to be deploying your raft, the chances of surviving to sue the manufacturer are vanishingly small, so the point is moot). Additonally, if you do self-service, you lack the training from the manufacturer and are therefore at a significant disadvantage. On the other hand, if you do self service, you get to know about your liferaft, and since it is your life on the line, you will probably take a bit more time and be a bit more motivated to do things right than some bloke who is getting paid not very much to do what is, essentially, just a job. Also, if you service, you get to decide what goes into the suvival equipment; ie. how much water, how much food and what type of food, what medical equipment, how many bottles of Royal Swan rum, etc.

The actual service of the liferaft is relatively simple: A basic service involves inflating the liferaft to working pressure (not with the inflation system / gas cylinder) and checking that there are no leaks. This can be ascertained with accurate manometers, or you can inflate it and leave it inflated for a couple of days and see if it deflates. If there are any leaks (and there often are), then you fix them (typically using a method very similar to fixing a puncture in a bicylce tyre inner tube). Once you are satisfied that the liferaft is leak free, you check the inflation system - at it's simplest level, this involves accurately weighing the gas cylinder to make sure no gas has leaked out of the cylinder (the correct weight of the full cylinder should be marked on it). Periodically (frequncy dependent on manufacturer's recommendations and/or SOLAS regulations) the liferaft should have a more thorough test that involves an actual gas inflation where you inflate the liferaft, in it's canister, to simulate an actual inflation... obviously this is a much more complicated process and requires servicing or replacing the cylinder head, refilling the gas cylinder, etc (and, FWIW, often damages the canister or valise). I wouldn't recommend doing this yourself.

Bottom line: Personally, provided you are reasonably competent, careful and take your time, I don't think that there is too much wrong with servicing your own liferaft. I would suggest you get it serviced by the recommended agents sometimes - maybe every 2nd or 3rd time?

A couple of things to bear in mind:

1. Be very careful when you unpack the canister, so you don't accidentally pull the painter and inflate the liferaft (if you do it isn't the end of the world, but you will need to take it to a service agent!). If possible get some digital photos of the process of unpacking so you can repack it as you found it.

2. Use a vacuum cleaner to suck-down the liferaft for repacking - you will really really need to get all the air out in order to get it back into the canister or valise.

3. While you can put anything you want into the emergency packs, think about it pretty carefully - it is you (and you crew's) life you are talking about. If you have grab bags, it is probably less crucial, but if you are going to be relying on what is in the liferaft, think hard.

Remember, everything I have said here is my own opinon, and as such is inherently worthless. Many other people in the industry might disagree with me. I have really only scratched the surface here, if you do have any other specific questions I will endeavour to answer them as best I can.
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Old 07-31-2007, 12:52 AM   #4
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Further to the above:

I think that it is a great idea to wish to see your liferaft being serviced and preferably gas-inflated (that is the industry term for actually pulling the painter to initiate inflation). You can learn a lot about your liferaft by doing this. I would be surprised if any service agent veiwed this as distrustful - I would expect that they would be pleased to see the owner taking an interest.

Vis a vis dodgy servicing. I don't know any horror stories about dodgy servicing of small liferafts per se, however I do know loads of horror stories about dodgy practices in commercial shipping: The dodgy ones, generally, being the vessel operators and the goverment surveyors (probably in cahoots with a sevice station)... Basically the operator bribes the surveyor to acredit the vessel to trade and to issue certification for the servicing of the liferafts when no servicing has actually taken place. I should point out that none of these stories originate from Australia. I also know stories of Service Centres continuing to service particular liferafts after the person certified to service has moved on (the Service Centre typically "forgets" to inform the manufacturer/certifier). this is not necessarily a casue for concern, but is to be avoided if possible.

All horror stories aside, if you take your liferaft to a service station and pay to have it serviced, I would be 99% confident that they will do a proper and professional job.
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Old 07-31-2007, 01:34 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Auzzee View Post
For example, I was told that in the lead up to this year's Ambon race, one yacht took their liferaft in for servicing to comply with race rules, as the survey was out of date since the raft was last serviced overseas 4 years ago.

I am told the servicing agent popped the liferaft only to find a hardcase filled with an inoperable liferaft of a different brand which had been stuffed into the case along with some long outdated provisions and supplies.

This story may or may not be true, but it is an example which highlights my concerns.... (This is why I used to pack my own chute back when I had so few brains that I used to leap from aeroplanes in flight).

David.
This sounds to me like a person who has bought the boat, complete with liferaft, from a less than scrupulous seller who has stuffed a dodgy liferaft and equipment into any old container and sealed it up (you can do it with pallette tape) in order to sell the boat with a liferaft... but, again, this is only conjecture on my part.
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Old 07-31-2007, 01:36 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by KiwiAussie View Post
A little bit off topic here but still on "servicing". Years ago, a fisherman I knew back in NZ had his Scania diesel (in his 2yr 63ft luxury grp charter/fishing boat) serviced by a Scania approved engineer. The engineer had been playing with the fuel lines & forgot to re-clamp them tightly. One hour after the boat left port, it was completely burnt to the water line.
Strange "story" if the fuel lines are disconnected or if they suck air the Diesel engine

stops !

If the boat burnt to the water line it would be very difficult to ascertain if the engineer forgot to "reclamp them tightly" --- Diesel will ignite but with difficulty .
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Old 07-31-2007, 02:04 AM   #7
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Thanks Weyalan for spending so much time and thought in your response. I truly appreciate your wisdom in this field and assure you it is not as you suggest 'worthless'.

One of the problems in determining so many marine related concerns is the absolute conviction of 'experts' who ply the bars along the waterfronts of the world. KiwiAussie, I can't verify the story above and it falls into the same category as stories which "I swear are God's truth" about disasters related to ferrocement boats, pirate attacks, volvo engines;now liferafts and, one of my favourites which I shall relate for your amusement.

I shall tell it in the first person, as it was told to me and with only minor embellishments............If you don't speak 'Strayan', your understanding of the story may not be complete. 'Brad' was living on his boat 'Vixen' in Western Australia at the time this story was alleged to have occurred.

"I'd picked up this shiela at some flea-pit in Freo. Pretty soon I'd pruned her mates and we wuz on 'Vixen'. Mate, I was ratted. So was she. But anyway, we cast orf and bu****ed off to Rotto. She's never even been in a bloody canoe before! Anyway, we're having a beer, Vixen's ploughing along, she's on the foredeck, I've set the self steering, grabbed the backstay and was having a squirt over the side when I lost me balance and f*****g .... SPLASH!

Jeez. There's no point in shouting out 'cause (1) I didn't know her name and (2) she's never been on a yacht so she'd be about as much use as a pocket in a bloody sock! We're about 6 miles out, middle of the flamin night, 10 to 15 up the a**e and I reckon I'm gonna drown.

Well bugger me if I didn't cop a clout in the head. The dinghy's on a long paynter and f*****g BANG, it just belted me on the nut. So I grabbed it, hauled meself in over the gunwhale, grabbed the paynter and hand-over-bloody-handed me way back to Vixen.

I made a bit of a racket when I clambered back into the cockpit and old Big T*** up front, came back and no bu*****t, she reckons "Whafyergornanadashowerorsumfink"? "Owcome yer all wet"?

You know? Whadderya say?...."

The story continued and had its inevitable between the sheets conclusion. It was amazing the depth of conviction with which this 'true' story was told.

David.
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Old 07-31-2007, 04:59 AM   #8
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A quick question:

Anyone know where an AUTOFLYGG liferaft can be serviced in Scandinavia?

Autoflyg is a German company concerned mainly with the aircraft industry but they did produce marine liferafts in the past but no service appears to exist now for these. I have written to Autoflygg on this subject a few times but received no reply. My raft needs servicing but if service is not availablke I will have to buy a new one Needless to say, it will not be Autoflygg!

Aye

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Old 07-31-2007, 06:19 AM   #9
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A quick question:

Anyone know where an AUTOFLYGG liferaft can be serviced in Scandinavia?

Autoflyg is a German company concerned mainly with the aircraft industry but they did produce marine liferafts in the past but no service appears to exist now for these. I have written to Autoflygg on this subject a few times but received no reply. My raft needs servicing but if service is not availablke I will have to buy a new one Needless to say, it will not be Autoflygg!

Aye

Stephen
Hi Stephen ,

Here is the address for Autoflug in Germany - it may be a different address to the one you used :-

http://www.aerospace-index.com/details.php?id=791

Richard

PS here is an outfit in Scandinavia that services Autoflug liferafts :-

http://www.aerospace-index.com/details.php?id=791
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Old 07-31-2007, 06:40 AM   #10
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Thanks for the info Richard. I will contact them at once.

Aye

Stephen
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Old 07-31-2007, 06:49 AM   #11
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Thanks for the info Richard. I will contact them at once.

Aye

Stephen
CORRECTION !!!!!

Somehow the Link repeated the German Address

Here is the one I tried to send - "Brude" is somewhere in Scandinavia .

http://www.brude.no/default.asp?menu=284

Richard
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