Maintenance free life rafts

Stena Line open innovation challenge

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Stena Line are seeking novel approaches to replace regulated safety checks on inflatable lift rafts on cargo and passenger ships, with another method to guarantee the reliability of these rafts in the event of an emergency.

What's the challenge?

The companies comprising the Swedish-based Stena Sphere represent one of the largest private shipping groups in the world. We are seeking solutions that can be applied to cargo and passenger ships that travel in all of the world’s oceans.

Today, inflatable life rafts aboard our ships are removed and inspected on shore by certified 3rd party companies that inflate and test each one. They exchange an inspected one while they test the one from the ship. This inspection process is logistically challenging and costly. Neither raft manufacturers nor the inspection companies have any incentive to prolong their useful life and extend their inspection intervals .

Our desire is to make these required annual inspections redundant by demonstrating that the risk of raft failure in the case of an emergency is acceptably low.  In the ideal case, we would like to eliminate the necessity of opening up, inflating, and manually inspecting the life boats.

Do you have the solution?

While maritime regulations can be difficult and slow to change, we believe that a combination of improved material technology and fabrication methods could result in an essentially maintenance free inflatable raft.  Ideally, the life of these rafts would be similar to the life span of our ships.

Another approach of interest is some form of remote monitoring or self-monitoring system that could be incorporated into the design of the life raft or (ideally) be used to assure the reliability of existing life rafts.

We would likely first seek Flag state approval to trial any solution approach, with hopes to implement the maximum inspection interval under current regulation (5 years).  Then, we would seek approval to eliminate the manual inspection requirement entirely. 

Evaluation criteria

Technical viability - Solutions proposed must be based on sound scientific principles and have laboratory or pilot scale data that demonstrate efficacy.

Scale-up potential - Solutions proposed must have a clear pathway to be application on commercial ships. Solutions already practiced in marine markets have higher value. The ideal partner would be able to lead the design and installation of full-scale systems.

Costs - Solutions would need to be reasonably cost effective to install and operate. Moreover, solutions should not require additional staffing or increase port turnaround time.  

Ownership - Solutions covered by patents have higher value. At a minimum, proposed solutions must not be prohibited by other patents in the field.

Killer issues - Solutions will not be considered if, in Stena’s opinion:

  • Installation and maintenance costs should not be prohibitive for broad application
  • Proposals lack sufficient supporting laboratory or pilot scale data
  • Solutions don’t adhere to global maritime regulations

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