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Life Raft and Life Jacket Servicing Importance: With Ocean Safety's Service Manager David Godfrey

by Mark Jardine 24 Apr 06:30 PDT

We spoke to David Godfrey, the Service Manager at Ocean Safety about the importance of life raft and life jacket servicing. These are items which every yacht owner has on board, but are often not maintained appropriately, even though they could help save your life should the worst happen.

Mark Jardine: You have a big service facility in Southampton, much of it devoted to the upkeep of Ocean Safety products such as Life Jackets and Life Rafts. What is the importance behind having your life jackets and life rafts serviced?

David Godfrey: Any device that is inflatable needs to be inspected and checked on a regular basis. We also advise checking annually or on a three-year cycle, to protect the warranty of the product and ensure that the life jacket or life raft will do what it needs to do in an emergency.

Mark: Most yacht owners have life jackets on board their boat, and they're reliant on those when things go wrong. In your opinion, what - makes some owners and users of life jackets and life rafts ignore the advice on servicing and regular checks?

David: It's a hard one to say, but I think it's down to cost sometimes, especially on life rafts. They send a white container away for service and they get a white container back and they look at it and say, "There's no difference! Why has it cost me £400+ to service this?". But there's an awful lot of detail inside the life raft that needs to be inspected and checked to make sure it does what it says on the tin when it needs to be used.

Life jackets need to be serviced on a regular basis as they are a daily-use item and we regularly receive life jackets that wouldn't be able to serve their purpose due to their mis-management and the abuse that they receive on an ongoing basis. There are many components on a life jackets that need replacing in order for them to function and it's important to increase the awareness of people's understanding of their lifejacket.

Mark: You have the Ocean Safety Service Centre here in Southampton, but your clients could be sailing anywhere in the world. Where do people go when they need to have a service elsewhere?

David: There are a lot of independent companies around the world. Depending on what kind of life raft or life jacket you have, we always recommend you check online and see where the approved service facilities are. We have a great website which tells you where all our approved service centres are.

Mark: With a life raft all you can see is the white container and with a life jacket, you can only see the casing and sometimes the window to the firing mechanism. How do you know when it needs to be serviced?

David: There are two main ways. On a ship or yacht's papers you should have a maintenance chart which shows all the dates when servicing is due, on the outside of the raft itself there will be a service due date and you'll also have a certificate which you should have with your ship's papers. If that's lost and you have an idea of when the life raft was last serviced, everyone has a database that we can look up and issue a duplicate certificate and email or post it.

Mark: When Ocean Safety sell a life raft, do you reinforce the importance of servicing? How do you tell the customer nearer the time that their service is due?

David: We have a database called OSIS, and every life raft that we manufacture is put onto that database. Every month we do a run of when these life rafts are due for service and notify the customer to inform them that a service is due. Sometimes customers have dealt only with chandleries or boat builders, so we don't always have the boat name or the customer's details, so in those cases it's more difficult to contact them.

Mark: In-between services, what can owners do to ensure their life rafts are kept in the best possible condition?

David: In a container-type life raft there's not really a lot you can do, apart from avoid high pressure hosing of the container. Also make sure it's available all the time and not kept in a restricted area, and don't stand or sit on it.

When a life raft is in a valise, they are more prone to damage. People keep them in lockers, sometimes keeping life jackets, flare boxes or general wet weather gear on top of them. Keeping a valise-packed life raft in a good storage area and looking after it will very much help prolong its life.

Mark: How can owners of life jackets keep them in good condition between services?

David: When a life jacket comes in for service, we see a huge range of conditions. General guidelines to follow are however; You should check the cylinder is OK, the capsule hasn't been fired, and look for general wear and tear. If a life jacket does get wet when you're out on the water, then try and air it as best you can before you put it in a locker or the boot of your car.

Mark: With life rafts, there is also the option of hiring. What are the service benefits of that?

David: With a hired life raft you have no service fees and no hidden extras. It's a fixed amount to pay and you can budget for that. It suits well with some of our customers.

Mark: What are costs for servicing a life raft?

David: There are a number of permutations, depending on what needs doing and the type of life raft. For example, is the gas inflation due, does the first aid kit need replacing, do the pyrotechnics need changing? It's all checked and varies between £280 to around £500 ex. VAT.

Mark: Many thanks indeed for your time and insights into the importance and processes of life raft and life jacket servicing.

Find out more at www.oceansafety.com

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