Copied from the other thread
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.