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What is a Life Raft?

What is a Life Raft? - Life Raft Professionals

John Miller |

When it comes to maritime safety, one of the most crucial pieces of equipment is the marine life raft. A life raft is a portable, inflatable device designed to keep individuals afloat and provide shelter during emergency situations at sea. In dire circumstances, it becomes a lifeline, offering hope and protection until rescue arrives. Let's explore the essential features and importance of life rafts.

The Importance of Life Rafts

Life rafts play a vital role in the safety of you and your crews. In the event of a ship's sinking or other catastrophic failure, life rafts provide a means of escape. They allow passengers and crew to abandon the vessel safely. Even just knowing there is a life raft onboard your vessel can ease the concerns of the people onboard. 

Features and Construction

Rafts can be made from different materials like natural rubber, butyl rubber, polyurethane, neoprene, or PVC. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages. Rafts made of rubber and neoprene need to be glued by hand to create seams, while polyurethane and PVC rafts can have their seams welded by a machine. A welded seem bonds the two materials together, when a glued seam is held together by the glue. Some rafts use both welding and gluing techniques.

Rubber and polyurethane rafts are believed to last the longest, around 15 to 20 years if taken care of properly, but other materials might be more resistant to wear and decay. Generally, polyurethane is considered the best material, although there are also good rafts made from other materials. PVC is popular because it is cheap and lightweight.

You'll often find an equipment pack inside your life raft with emergency supplies such as water, food rations, flares, signaling devices, and medical kits to enhance the chances of survival until help arrives. Each Life Raft is different, so its highly recommended to review the contents of the life rafts equipment pack prior to purchasing. This way you will be able to ensure that it will have all the equipment you will need in a situation where the life raft is needed. 

Safety and Survival

The capacity ratings for rafts are determined by allocating four square feet of floor area per person. This may not be sufficient, especially for a group of larger individuals who are wet and possibly feeling seasick. Some raft models offer more space than the minimum requirement. It is recommended to purchase a raft that is rated for at least 50% more people than you actually plan to have on board. 

Life rafts are designed to accommodate a specific number of occupants, and it is crucial to ensure that the capacity is more or the same as the number of people on board your vessel. They are equipped with grab lines, handles, and ropes to assist individuals in boarding and exiting the raft. Life rafts are also equipped with a variety of safety features, including reflective tape for visibility, an automatic inflation system, and a ballast system to maintain stability in rough waters.

Training and Maintenance

Proper training is essential to ensure that individuals know how to deploy and operate a life raft effectively. Crew members and passengers on vessels should receive training on life raft usage, emergency procedures, and survival techniques. Regular maintenance and inspections of life rafts are crucial to guarantee their functionality when needed. In order to do this you will need to bring this into your local Life Raft Service Station to have your life raft inspected by trained professionals. During the inspection they will be checking the inflation system, inspecting the canopy and hull for any damages, and ensuring that emergency supplies are up to date and in good condition.

A life raft is more than just an inflatable device; it is a critical tool that can make a difference between life and death during maritime emergencies. By providing buoyancy, shelter, and essential supplies, life rafts offer a glimmer of hope in dire situations, ensuring the safety and survival of those stranded at sea. Remember, being prepared and knowledgeable about life raft operations is as important as having the raft itself. With proper training, maintenance, and adherence to safety protocols, life rafts continue to be the ultimate lifeline in times of distress on the open water.

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