Self-righting lifeboat gains dual approval following northern winter trials

SeaSafe Boats was set up in Stockholm in 1998 to market a combined fast rescue and lifeboat, the Dolphin Safe Rescuer.

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The Dolphin Safe Rescuer can accommodate 18 people and is fully enclosed.
Click here to enlarge image

SeaSafe Boats was set up in Stockholm in 1998 to market a combined fast rescue and lifeboat, the Dolphin Safe Rescuer. Patrick Brunosson, the company's Marketing Director, explains that the concept of the boat was born out of the Estonia ferry disaster in 1995 in the Baltic Sea.

"One of the saddest facts about the accident is that although there were a number of vessels on the scene soon after the passengers were forced to abandon ship. None of them launched their rescue crafts. The sea was too rough - it was felt highly unlikely they would be able to pick people up without severely jeopardizing the lives of the rescue crews. Many people lost their lives in the sea due to hypothermia. It was also notable that many of the lifeboats later recovered were found floating upside-down."

Fast rescue/enclosed lifeboat

The Dolphin Safe Rescuer was designed to overcome the problems tragically highlighted by the disaster. One of the sponsors of the work was the Swedish Innovation Centre. The aim was to produce an enclosed, unsinkable, self-righting boat with good handling capabilities, even in the most difficult seas. It needed to be straightforward to launch and retrieve, and, most importantly, it had to be designed so that it was easy for crew members to pick people up from the water.

Tests on one of the first boats produced by the company indicated that the designer's goals had been fully met. In a trial in the Baltic Sea last year, the boat performed satisfactorily, even during a snowstorm, in darkness and with wave heights in excess of six meters. The trials were witnessed by the marine administrations of Sweden and Finland and by Germanischer Lloyd. As a result, the craft has become the first to be approved as a combined fast rescue and enclosed lifeboat. In separate trials, the boat has proved to be self-righting even when flooded with water.

The vessel is made of a fire-retardant, polyester sandwich composite, combining high strength, lightness and excellent heat insulation. It weighs around 2,400 kg, which is not much more than current open rescue boats. It has capacity for 18 people, including its three-man crew, and all seats have four-point restraining belts. There is also adequate room for a stretcher.

The boat has a diesel engine powered waterjet, and the manufacturers offer two different propulsion alternatives - there is a Volvo Penta TAMD 42WJ/ Kamewa 22 combination or a Yanmar 4LH-STE / Hamilton 241 option. Both give the boat a top speed of 28 knots with three persons on board, while fully loaded the craft will exceed 12 knots. Launch and retrieval is by a single point davit, the hook being permanently mounted on a stainless steel pole passing right through the craft.

The hull is V-shaped for optimum performance at high speed and in rough seas. At low speed, when idling and in reverse, the craft is stabilized by the presence of two parallel tunnels in the hull, which each automatically fill with approximately 1 cu meter of seawater. These tunnels empty themselves when the vessel is making more than 3 knots in a forward direction.

Easy recovery

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Recovery of people from the sea is made easy by the submerged aft section of the boat.
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The tunnels are also instrumental in making it easy to recover people from the sea. The vessel has a low aft - the freeboard is just 10 cm - which becomes completely submerged when the boat is stationary or going in reverse, owing to the water-filled tunnels. Essentially, the vessel is backed down underneath a person in the sea. This makes it very easy for crewmen, who are harnessed to the boat, to pull people onboard.

The fact that those rescued are soon in an enclosed environment improves their chances of survival, even if the severity of the conditions make immediate retrieval of the boat impossible.

The craft cost in the region of $100,000 each. SeaSafe's first customer was the ferry company, DFDS, which ordered seven. Four have so far been delivered. As well as other ferry operators, SeaSafe is talking to offshore operators in the North Sea who are interested in deploying the boats from offshore platforms as standby vessels to replace the traditional rigid, inflatable man-overboard or MOB boats generally used at the moment.

Brunosson has had comments from some people that the boat is over-engineered - too luxurious. In response, Brunosson claims that the current SOLAS - Safety Of Life At Sea - regulations are too limited. "Boats and systems designed to meet them simply cannot be operated safely under difficult sea conditions," he says.

For more information contact Patrick Brunosson, SeaSafe Boats. Tel: +46 300 569630, Fax: +46 300 569635, E-mail:

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