Sunday, 13 October 2013

Dangerous Liferaft Servicing

Early this year we broke our own "boat rules" and could well have paid the penalty with our lives.

The Only Time We Want To Be Inside The Raft.
Our number one rule is to try to service and maintain every item on the boat ourselves.  Our number two rule is to always work alongside and supervise any contractor working on the boat.  

We broke both rules when we sent away our DSB / Secumar life raft for servicing in Bangkok. The last time the raft was serviced, in Singapore, we had watched the entire operation.

This time, under pressure to complete our refit,  we shipped the raft to be "serviced" by MSC, Marine Survitec Company near Bangkok.  What a dangerous and expensive mistake.

The raft was returned to us in dreadful condition.  Our first indication of the problems was when we found that we could not install the raft into its custom stainless cradle on deck - it just would not fit.   A closer inspection showed that the casing was not clamped down tight, with a spongy fit that didn't seem right.  Then we looked at the casing and realised that the raft had been sealed with simple cloth adhesive (gaffa) tape, instead of the correct rubber sealing strip.

The tape was already coming loose, exposing the contents to the atmosphere.   This was truly shoddy and unprofessional work, that had in fact cost a lot of money - over $1,400.00 !

Now we had no confidence that the raft would operate if we needed it.  We were also sure that the raft itself would be damaged by being exposed to the elements.

W.H. Brennan Team Unpacking The Raft
Go To The Top....

Using email and telephone, we worked our way through the Secumar and DSB organisations, finally talking to the customer service team at Survitec headquarters in England (DSB are now a part of the Survitec Group). This lead to several late night conversations with Paul Clarke, who is a technical services and training manager.  Paul stepped up and offered a perfect solution for us - Survitec in Singapore would open, re-pack and re-certify the raft at no charge to us.

This time we personally delivered the raft to W.H. Brennan in Singapore (part of Survitec Group) and watched as our raft was unpacked and inflated.

Survitec/Brennan's team were very professional. They inflated the raft, and laid out all the equipment so we could check it off against the contents list.  Missing from the Bangkok repack were all the personal items - 2 pairs of sun glasses, two pairs of prescription reading glasses, sunscreen, a pack of playing cards, additional fishing line and lures.  The regulation safety equipment was all there, but the additional personal items had been removed (or stolen) in Bangkok.  The re-packing had also been done without any of the necessary specialised components and practices - the sealing for the activation cord, the vacuum bag and the rubber sealing strip for the casing.  The WH Brennan team ordered the necessary parts and did a fully professional job of re-servicing the raft.

Serviced, Sealed And In Place On Deck.
Thank You Survitec !

A very big thank you to Paul Clarke, Survitec Service and Training Manager based in the UK.  Also thanks to Sim Beng Chuan and his team at W.H.Brennan in Singapore for their prompt and professional support.

Finally, a big thumbs down to MSC at Samutparkam in Thailand - not to be trusted it seems.


  1. Just checking to make sure you are both ok after the typhoon in the Philippines.
    Mike and Jan (ex Asterie)

  2. All fine, it passed well south of us. Congrats on the new boat, we watched the video, she looks a real treat.

  3. How long did they leave your raft inflated before repacking? Also, was it an air-conditioned climate controlled environment? I am finding a lot of variation in "certified" facilities.
    PS, you have a great blog site and with your information, I hope to convince the admiral that yours is the direction we need to travel after leaving Malaysia.

    1. Patrick, thanks for the comments. The raft was left inflated overnight and the pressure was measured the following day. Thinking back now, No I do not think the environment was air conditioned.

    2. In Suva, Fiji, the facility was climate controlled with double sealed entry doors. They left our raft inflated for 24 hours. Here in Malaysia, the 3 facilities we visited were no more than a garage with overhead doors open to the ambient outside humidity. Each licensed facility wanted to leave our raft inflated for an hour before repacking although they would honor my request and leave it for 24 hours. We will go somewhere else to have it inspected. I don't want to have to tell these people how to do their job. But life raft manufacturers have been very nonresponsive to my request about inflation times prior to repacking as well as environmental concerns, which is a concern. No magazine article on life rafts I have read has ever mentioned inflation time prior to repacking.


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