Major passenger ship operator onboards the future of safety with VIKING LifeCraft


Announced as a gamechanger in ship evacuation, the VIKING LifeCraft system is now bound for installation on its first series of new build vessels. 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.

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

To that end, the LifeCraft advanced evacuation system from the renowned global manufacturer VIKING Life-Saving Equipment has been chosen as the new primary safety system onboard. The LifeCraft™ system comprises four 203 person self-propelled survival craft bringing together the advantages of premium lifeboat, liferaft and evacuation system technology in a revolutionary hybrid solution.

“When deciding to renew a fleet trusted to serve millions of people, the replacement vessels must exceed traveller expectations and be of the highest standard in terms of quality, technology, efficiency, and safety,” says Massimo Soprano, Ships Programme Director, iReX, KiwiRail.
“This is also the case for the onboard evacuation systems, which is an area where compromise is never an option. Here, LifeCraft and the innovation and extensive testing backing the system has proved to be an excellent survival craft solution. Beyond potentially providing an increase in safety, the system also saves large amounts of space, weight and time-consuming procedures.”

One of the areas where the VIKING LifeCraft system is breaking new ground in general 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, within just a few moments.

Efficiently outperforming every safety standard in its field, 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.

“Be it a ferry or a cruise-ship, the integration of safety systems is paramount in the ship-design process, which means that it at times will be a priority at the expense of aesthetics or comfort,” says Anders Ørgård, CEO at the maritime design company OSK-ShipTech assisting in the construction of the new Interislander ferries. “This system makes this trade-off irrelevant by offering a solution that – apart from being a state-of-the art safety system – also is both practical, light, and visually appealing,”

Should it be brought into action, the LifeCraft system is able to evacuate over 800 people within only 30 minutes. After evacuation, each of the systems 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.
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.