New Evacuation System on Breakaway

Let's start with a couple of acronyms that will help in this story, most of which will be told by pictures:

MES — Marine Evacuation Systems
SOLAS — Safety Of Life At Sea

LSA — Life Saving Appliance

There is a new MES on the market — called the RFD Marin Ark2 — and it will surface (no pun intended) on the Norwegian Breakaway when it arrives in New York three weeks from now. It is capable of evacuating up to 862 passengers in 30 minutes.

Assume that the average cruise ship now carries 3,000 passengers. That means an entire ship can be evacuated in just under two hours.

For us, the logical question is why not four MES units, which would cut the evacuation time to 30 minutes. That's where SOLAS and LSA come into the picture. We're told that SOLAS regulations strictly state that "for a cruise vessel, MES cannot exceed 25% of the primary LSA requirement; 75% of the primary requirement to be satisfied by lifeboats."

So, if a ship is to have two Marin Ark2s, as the Breakaway does, capable of evacuating 1,600 people in 30 minutes, then it must also have enough lifeboats to evacuate 4,800 more people in 30 minutes. In the Breakaway's case, that should be everybody on board, passengers and crew alike.

Safety is always the No. 1 priority on ships. The Marin Ark2 is the only system capable of evacuating that many people that quickly and it is designed to reduce lifeboats needed, not replace them. Maybe in time that will change.

The photos, courtesy of the Marin Ark2 designer's (Survitec Group), show its exterior. The link between this large floating LSA and the ship is two fully-enclosed "slide paths" that allow for "safe, rapid and controlled" descent without being exposed to the elements.

It goes without saying that nobody ever wants to try it out for real. Whether it would have saved more people on the Costa Concordia last year is always going to be debatable, but improved escapes from a ship in trouble are always a step in the right direction.

Diamond Princess
7 nights
June 1, 2013
Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Vancouver
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

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