Liferaft: all you need to know about it


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The regulations governing the construction and use of the liferaft for recreational craft have been in force since 18 September 2002. However, not all yachtsmen have a clear idea. Let us be clear about this. The standard adapts the quality of rafts to international safety standards defined in ISO 9650. Much has been written on this subject, with favourable opinions on the type of construction of the survival craft, which objectively becomes safer thanks to much higher standards and more complete equipment. Opinions against, on the other hand, concern the increase in price, space and weight. Here is a small vademecum, meticulously following the rules, which will help you in the choice or revision of the rescue vehicle.

When the liferaft is in compliance with the law

The regulations in force identify different types of rafts according to their use and the type of navigation that is carried out. It identifies the temperatures in which it is inflated (from -15° to +65°), the size of the lights, the number and type of equipment, etc… The equipment also changes depending on whether you have a liferaft for navigation within and beyond 12 miles. If you buy a new one, you will be issued with a “owner’s manual” and a “user’s manual” with instructions for transport, stowage and use of the raft. If you buy a used boat, pay attention to the raft supplied. In fact, the “old” ones, i.e. those built before 18 January 2003, must be accompanied by a declaration from the manufacturer certifying the quality of construction.

Revision: how and when it is mandatory

In addition to being mandatory also has a cost borne by the owner. This cost may vary between different manufacturers, so be informed at the time of purchase, because often the cheapest models hide surprises “salty” at the time of review. Also check the location of your nearest service centre and request a detailed quote before shipping. The overhaul must take place every two years at the manufacturer’s authorised service centres. During this check, the condition of the pneumatic part, accessories and equipment is checked. The inflation cylinder, its valves and the operating head are tested.

At the end of the overhaul, the results and the checks of the interventions carried out are reported on a special overhaul certificate, which must always be kept on board. There are also “special” checks that are carried out with a longer deadline. Every 5 years the condition of the cylinders must be checked, while every six years from the first packaging on the identification paper, the raft must undergo a special inspection that includes at least an overpressure test equal to 25% of the operating pressure of the raft for 30 minutes and a test of tightness to the operating pressure for 6 hours.

The raft should be inspected every two years, the first is usually less expensive than the second when virtually all fires are changed (they last about 5 years). Always ask for a quote first.

The mandatory equipment is regulated by a European standard, ISO 9650, which is also implemented by European’s Counrty’s law.


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