Taking It To The Limit: Safety In The Age Of The Mega Cruise Ship
Today’s cruise ships are becoming larger and larger. Now, they’re like small cities – floating leisure resorts capable of carrying thousands of passengers to exotic locations. But what happens when something goes wrong? How can you evacuate up to 12,000 people from a stricken ship in stormy seas? And, once they are on the water, how do you keep them safe until help arrives?
The modern history of marine life-saving equipment begins with the Titanic, which so clearly exposed the limitations of such equipment on large vessels. For the next 25 years, research focused on lifeboats, which are mounted on deck and lowered into the sea with passengers on board. Then came the liferaft, inflatable vessels that open upon deployment in the water and are accessed by chute. Both are used widely today – but new technology is likely to have a major impact on these, more traditional evacuation solutions.
Taking up the challenge
VIKING Life-Saving Equipment, the world’s leading supplier of maritime safety products and equipment, has tackled the challenges of traditional lifeboats and liferafts full-on. Now, its innovative solution – the VIKING LifeCraft™ System – is set to revolutionize evacuation.
As a complete life-saving equipment supplier, VIKING has expertise in both lifeboats and liferafts, and the VIKING LifeCraft™ combines the best of both with new technologies to produce a powerful new option. As a fully inflatable vessel, it takes up little space on deck – one of the key attractions of liferafts for the cruise industry – but it also has the comfort and self-propelled maneuverability of modern lifeboats. And its capacity is large enough for today’s biggest cruise ships.
In an emergency situation, an evacuation is a step into the unknown. Rough seas, cliffs, unwater rocks and the stricken vessel itself are all a danger to a small vessel. To overcome this problem, the VIKING LifeCraft™ has 16 independent inflatable buoyancy chambers spread throughout the hull and is flexible enough to ride the roughest waves. For manoeuvrability, it uses four independent electric engines, one on each corner, which make it possible to turn on the spot, hold position or speed away to safer waters as the situation requires.
Many evacuations at sea occur in heavy weather, with huge waves, gusting winds and driving rain. To ensure its equipment will perform in these conditions, VIKING tests its products to the limit. For the VIKING Heavy Weather Test Team, this literally requires chasing heavy weather. When testing the VIKING LifeCraft™ in the North Sea, the team were exposed to wave heights between 3.6-4.6 meters with towering peaks of up to 10 meters (32.8 feet) – 50% above the stipulated heavy weather testing requirements – and the wind hit brutal speeds of 18 meters per second (40 miles per hour).
“VIKING has always had the philosophy that we want to deliver the best safety products in the world, and we will even go beyond regulations to do so,” says Benny Carlsen, SVP – Global Sales and Marketing. “Because, at the end of the day, everything we do in development and testing is to save human lives.” says Andreas Steengaard Sørensen, LifeCraft Project Manager.