VIKING’s patented LifeCraft’s system is to be installed on KiwiRail’s first series of newbuildings.
The life saving system will serve as the main evacuation solution on board the new diesel hybrid-electric Interislander ferries, which will be operated by KiwiRail to connect the two main islands of New Zealand.
For more than 60 years, KiwiRail ferries have provided a connection for 800,000 annual passengers between New Zealand’s North and South Island, across the Cook Strait.
To upgrade the link, KiwiRail is replacing its fleet with two new purpose-built ships, currently in the advanced design phase at Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD) in South Korea.
VIKING Life-Saving Equipment’s LifeCraft evacuation system has been chosen as the new primary safety system on board.
This system comprises four 203 person self-propelled survival craft, which brings together the advantages of lifeboat, liferaft and evacuation system technology in a hybrid solution, the company said.
“When deciding to renew a fleet trusted to serve millions of people, the replacement vessels must exceed traveller expectations and be of the highest standard in terms of quality, technology, efficiency, and safety.
“This is also the case for the on board evacuation systems, which is an area where compromise is never an option. Here, LifeCraft and the innovation and extensive testing backing the system has proved to be an excellent survival craft solution. Beyond potentially providing an increase in safety, the system also saves large amounts of space, weight and time-consuming procedures,” said Massimo Soprano, Ships Programme Director, iReX, KiwiRail.”
One of the areas where the VIKING LifeCraft system is breaking new ground is the digitalisation of the entire pre-departure safety-check. Instead of taking up the crew’s time and relying on manual processes, such as testing combustible fuel engines, the Master or safety officer has the readiness status of the system available at the touch of a button directly from the bridge, within just a few moments.
LifeCraft is also a compact system, as all the elements – from the EscapeWay 4-chute system to the four 203-person capacity inflatable craft – are stored together in the same unit, which can be either placed on deck or built into the side of the vessel.
“During the development process of LifeCraft, compactness has been an important parameter all the way through. For the Interislander ferries, as well as any other ship that will be a major asset in terms of both safety, comfort, and the demand for space on deck to utilise for other purposes,” added Niels Fraende, VIKING’s Vice President of LifeCraft Sales.
In the case of LifeCraft, compactness also equals saving weight and by that reducing vessels’ fuel consumption. This changes the way ships are designed and constructed, the company claimed:
“Be it a ferry or a cruise ship, the integration of safety systems is paramount in the ship design process, which means that it at times will be a priority at the expense of aesthetics or comfort.
“This system makes this trade-off irrelevant by offering a solution that – apart from being a state-of-the art safety system – also is both practical, light, and visually appealing,” Anders Ørgård, CEO of maritime design company, OSK-ShipTech, commented. OSK assisted in the construction of the new Interislander ferries.
LifeCraft is able to evacuate over 800 people within 30 minutes. After evacuation, each of the systems four craft will switch to their all-electric propulsion setup to move and maintain a safe position while waiting for help to arrive.
If needed, the four electric engines combined with a high level of seaworthiness, means that each craft can use its 360-deg manoeuvrability and acceleration to support SAR operations even in severe weather conditions and high sea states.
Lloyd’s Register’s (LR) Bruce McDonald; said: “Advanced hybrid evacuation systems like the LifeCraft are a significant shift in how we think about maritime safety and vessel evacuation, where there has been a long standing tradition of thinking in boats and rafts in terms of life-saving equipment.
“This is an innovative and safe alternative that combines existing and new technologies. At the same time, it opens a range of new possibilities in the sector, which we of course always welcome,” he said.
The first new Interislander ferry is expected to start operations across the Cook Strait in late 2025, with the second ship following in 2026.