Patrick Childress

Your Marine Head Units Professionals Understand that Annual Frustrating Inspection Time

Raritan Engineering Company would love to share with you this week this helpful information on how to better understand your life raft inspection time. 

Spring is when many sailors have to bite the bullet and have their life raft inspected, an expense that costs 10 to 30 percent of the price they paid for the raft—or more.

In the U.S., there is no inspection requirement for life rafts on recreational boats. Inspection guidelines are set by the manufacturer. In Europe and other parts the world, rafts for recreational boats that sail offshore are supposed to meet ISO Standard 9650-1. This standard allows for an inspection interval of up to three years, but manufacturers often specify shorter intervals, especially for boats that spend most of their time in the tropics. 

The experience of the owners of the 14-year-old, six-man, valise-stored Avon life raft pictured here reminds us of the importance of following the manufacturer’s inspection schedule, however onerous and costly it might seem.

However, because the interval can be as long as three years in newer models, it is not surprising that some owners (and even some inspection stations) are not aware of this. Regardless, the owners of this particular raft, like many cruisers, waited nearly five years between inspections. 

The owner’s experience raises an important point about purchasing a life raft. When respected brands are passed between investment groups and production is moved overseas to save costs, quality control and service support can suffer. 

Your Marine Head Units Analysts Explain How Servicing Your Life Raft is Crucial

Your marine head units experts know that when it comes to any life raft, service support is just as important as the raft itself. In fact, many life rafts are sold with very small profit margins, with the expectation of additional profits through routine servicing. 

A pioneer in the world of inflatable boats, Avon was acquired by French competitor Zodiac in 1998. Zodiac stopped making Avon life rafts in 2004, and then scaled back to two Zodiac brand life rafts. 

To complicate things, several Zodiac-related brands have been spun off, and there is another “Zodiac” life raft on the market. During the economic downturn, British-based Survivetec acquired the Zodiac brand for commercial (SOLAS) life rafts, sold under the SurvivetechZodiac label. 

A State of Flux

It is not clear if all of these SOLAS-compliant facilities on this list are authorized to inspect Zodiac’s new recreational rafts. Zodiac’s list of approved facilities for the new recreational rafts is available here. Having a SOLAS-trained technician inspect your life raft is not necessarily a bad thing, but most life raft manufacturers require you use their certified inspection stations to maintain warranty protection.

The elastomer used to make the Avon life raft pictured above is chloroprene rubber (CR), also known as neoprene. Another elastomer common among inflatable boats is chlorosulfonated polyethylene (CSM), known by the brand-name Hypalon. 

Zodiac Nautic’s new life rafts are made of plastomers, and the company is working with the owners of the raft in these pictures to provide a replacement. The new offshore model is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and the new coastal raft is made of polyurethane (PU). 

If your life raft is up for inspection in the coming year, you can often negotiate a cheaper price and surely get faster service if you do it in the late summer, fall, or winter, after the spring rush in the recreational market.

Click here and find out more information regarding marine head units and all of your marine supply needs at Raritan Engineering.

via Know Your Liferaft Inspection Requirements