In what has been called an industry first for ship evacuation, Viking’s LifeCraft system is bound for installation on its first series of newbuild ferries.

The system will serve as the main evacuation solution on board the new diesel hybrid-electric Interislander ferry fleet operated by KiwiRail to connect the two main islands of New Zealand.


Interislander ferry route - about 14 miles

“During the development process of LifeCraft, compactness has been an important parameter all the way through,” said Niels Fraende, vice president of LifeCraft sales at Danish firm Viking Life-Saving Equipment, a long-term Seawork exhibitor.

“For the Interislander ferries as well as any other ship that will be a major asset in terms of both safety, comfort, and the demand for space on deck to utilise for other purposes.”

New ground

Viking’s LifeCraft system comprises four 203-person self-propelled survival craft bringing together the advantages of premium lifeboat, liferaft and evacuation system technology in one hybrid solution.

Viking’s LifeCraft system

Source: Viking

Viking’s LifeCraft system brings together the advantages of a premium lifeboat, liferaft and evacuation system technology in one hybrid solution

One of the areas where the Viking LifeCraft system is breaking new ground is the digitalisation of the entire pre-departure safety check.

Instead of taking up the crew’s time and relying on manual processes such as testing combustible fuel engines, the captain or safety officer has the readiness status of the system available at the touch of a button directly from the vessel’s bridge.

The LifeCraft is also a compact system. All system elements – from the EscapeWay 4-chute system to the four 203-person capacity inflatable craft – are stored together in the same unit, which can be either placed on deck or built into the side of the vessel.

Because it’s so compact it is also weight saving, and as a consequence reduces vessel fuel consumption.

Should it be brought into action, the LifeCraft system can evacuate more than 800 people in just 30 minutes. After evacuation, each of the system’s four craft will take advantage of their all-electric propulsion setup to move into and maintain a safe position while waiting for help to arrive.

If needed, the four electric engines, combined with a high level of seaworthiness, means that each craft can use its 360-degree manoeuverability and acceleration to support SAR operations even in severe weather conditions and high sea states.

In this way, the LifeCraft system could enhance the overall rescue capability of the Interislander ferries, because it has the additional feature of being able to rescue people from the water if an incident occurs on another vessel in the area.

For more than 60 years, KiwiRail ferries has provided a connection for 800,000 annual passengers between New Zealand’s North and South islands. To futureproof the country’s main link across the Cook Strait, the operator is replacing the fleet with two new purpose-built ships, currently in the advanced design phase at the Hyundai Mipo Dockyard in South Korea.

The first new Interislander ferry is expected to assume full-scale operation across the Cook Strait in late 2025, with the second ship to follow in 2026.