Shipping operations have increased in the polar regions as warmer weather has opened shipping routes for longer periods. But this exposes vessels and crews to new and unique safety risks in these remote areas.
In order to help shipowners meet these risks and the demands of the new International Maritime Organization (IMO) Polar Code, Viking Life-Saving Equipment has launched its ‘polar ready’ marine evacuation system (MES).
“Based on the new generation of the Plus series Viking marine evacuation system launched last year, VEC Plus Polar is a first-of-its-kind chute-based marine evacuation solution focused on technical simplicity, reliability under harsh conditions, and a user-centric design,” said Niels Fraende, Viking vice-president for cruise and lifecraft.
The VEC Plus Polar evacuation system is fully enclosed and dry-shod to allow for safe and swift evacuations. It is gravity-released and can perform a controlled descent to launch safely on to ice or water.
With a capacity of up to 565 persons, the system can be installed aboard anything from smaller ferries to larger cruise ships, either integrated into a new vessel’s design or retrofitted.
Fraende said, “Business is booming in the cruise shipping industry” and VEC Plus Polar is a “perfect match for smaller expedition-class vessels set to navigate exotic yet potentially hazardous waters such as those surrounding the two poles. [These include] all the IACS PC-6 Class, Polar Code Category B vessels that will be leaving shipyards in the years to come”.
Viking has focused on reducing overall complexity and this system has 40% fewer mechanical components than earlier marine evacuation systems. That should lower costs, simplify maintenance, and improve reliability. According to the company, the system only requires land-based servicing every 30 months, “severely reducing costs related to administration and logistics”.
The VEC Plus Polar system has undergone tests to ensure it can withstand harsh environments. It has been ice-tested at -30°C to ensure it will work at the polar service temperature of -20°C typically required of PC-6 Class ships.
“In addition, based on our extensive experience, including recent findings from the SARex I and II expeditions in Svalbard, the entire system, including the associated liferafts, has been modified and reinforced to match the extreme conditions under which it may be required to save lives. This includes measures to store Polar Code mandatory personal and group survival kits along with rations for five-day survival directly at the evacuation station,” Fraende added.