Scottish ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne has become the first in the UK to fit the latest automatic escape slides from SurvitecZodiac.
Purchased on their behalf by Caledonian Maritime Assets, the Autolaunch slides offer greater passenger safety by needing no crew input for their preparation and deployment and can be activated simply by pressing a button on the bridge or beside the slide itself.
The slide and a 151-passenger capacity liferaft are then launched, inflated and bowsed securely without any crew involvement. This has the additional safety benefit of leaving crew members free to deal with other aspects of the emergency if needed and it can greatly increase the passenger evacuation speed of a ship.
The Bute is the first of two Caledonian MacBrayne ferries to be fitted with the system and will be followed by an identical installation aboard the Argyle, which is a sister ship to the 2612 gt, 72-metre Bute. A third vessel, the Coruisk will be fitted with a similar arrangement later. Although the ships have a capacity for carrying up to 450 passengers, their loads are more typically around half that number who are able to travel in comfort on the scheduled ferry service across the River Clyde between Rothesay and Wemyss Bay.
Each ship will be fitted with a 2.2-metre slide and a venturi-assisted inflation system for a 151-person capacity open reversible liferaft which is installed on each side of the vessel. A second liferaft of the same capacity will also be carried on each side and can be launched independently of the slide if required. The slides will also feature the latest design development from SurvitecZodiac by being housed in a flush-fitting aluminium container that is integrated within the structure of the ship. In addition to the cosmetic benefits it affords the ship, the new housing provides the slide assembly with greater protection against extreme weather conditions and accidental damage.
Although Caledonian MacBrayne is the first UK company to take advantage of the benefits of the Survitec Autolaunch slide systems, they have been proving particularly popular for installation aboard fast ferries in Scandinavia. The Autolaunch system has been tested and approved for slides to heights up to 3.8 m and this enables Survitec to meet the evacuation needs of a wide variety of vessels. This is facilitated by the company’s ability to offer a full range of slide systems from 1.5 to 3.8m (Mini-Slide) and 3.8m to 12.5 m (Superslide Medium Inflatable Slide, twin tracks) of freeboard. When vessels have a freeboard in excess of 12.5m, Survitec offers a broad range of chute and raft evacuation systems up to a capacity of 860 persons, including the award winning Marin Ark system.