Life Raft Discrepancies Found by USCG
Wednesday, August 18, 1999
The USCG MSO Providence has publicized the findings of its life raft examination, which revealed several deficiencies in the life rafts. The USCG inspectors examined 19 life rafts from fishing vessels and pleasure boats serviced by Jim Givens Survival Company and Givens Ocean Survival Systems Co. of Newport and Portsmouth, R.I. All 19 of the life rafts were deficient.
The results revealed 16 rafts had missing equipment. Three of the rafts were taken out of service and two were outright condemned. Five of the rafts had problems with the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) cylinders, and altogether, 17 rafts had items which were expired at the time of the last servicing.
One raft had dry rot and tears in the fabric that had been glued back together. Problems with the CO2 cylinders, required to inflate the rafts, included two cylinders that had not been tested in seven years, and one that weighed half its required weight.
Some of the items missing from the various life rafts included sea anchors, radar reflectors, flares, medical supplies, flashlights, food, water, drinking cups, can openers, whistles, bailers, jackknifes, repair kits, heaving lines, instructions and hand pump parts (which rendered the pump inoperative). Expired items included EPIRBs and other batteries, flares, medical supplies, food and water.
On one raft, all but three of the required 72 water bags were missing, broken or expired. Many other items, such as oars, interior and exterior lighting and hand-held pumps, were inoperative and required repairs or replacement.
Upon seeing his raft taken out of the canister, one owner - whose raft was in particularly bad condition - was visibly shaken, and expressed great concern for the safety of his family and crew, who had been out on his vessel.
Unlike most safety alerts, in which one item in a large number of items is found defective, in this instance, 100 percent of the rafts examined had problems, ranging in magnitude. The USCG has attempted to notify other mariners whose rafts are potentially affected, as company records indicate more than 200 rafts have been serviced, but poor recordkeeping has made notifying everyone a near-impossibility.