Electric GES free-fall lifeboat – ‘this is the way forward’

By Michael Rogers

The E-GES free-fall lifeboat – (photo: VIKING Life-Saving Equipment A/S)

When VIKING Life-Saving Equipment acquired lifeboat solution provider Norsafe last year, the fusion created a powerhouse in the maritime safety industry, expanding VIKING’s capabilities as an unmatched safety product and service supplier. Norsafe was a perfect fit with VIKING, bringing its full range of boats, lifeboats and davits into the VIKING offerings, now under the “VIKING Norsafe” brand.

Commenting on the merger, Benny Carlsen, Senior Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing, says, “Norsafe has been primarily focusing on the oil and gas industry, whereas VIKING is also very strong within the commercial shipping,, defence, and passenger areas – not least due to our strong global network of servicing stations. So, as you see, adding the products of Norsafe to the world of VIKING is a great fit in every way.”

Benny Carlsen, Senior Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing
Benny Carlsen, Senior Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing (photo: VIKING Life-Saving Equipment A/S)

“We also have VIKING Offshore Safety Agreements signed up for over 15,000 assets – so it’s quite natural to offer these customers lifeboat and davit services in their agreements, too,” Carlsen continues.

The VIKING Offshore Safety Agreement concept ensures cost-efficient sourcing, management and servicing of the full range of safety equipment, all in one neatly wrapped single global package. “We take care of everything from specifications and certification to service and multi-vendor invoice monitoring – all for a fixed price and with a single point of contact. It’s a great way to ensure both high-quality safety equipment and consistent efficiencies in maintaining safety compliance,” explains Carlsen.

Electric lifeboat alternative
Continuing, Benny Carlsen points to the Norsafe-developed free-fall lifeboat.

Suitable for ships and offshore installations, the VIKING Norsafe Gravity Escape System – GES – line of free-fall lifeboats has long offered a low-maintenance option to ensure a secure and protected means of escape from board vessels or platforms.

As the latest extension to the range, the VIKING Norsafe E-GES, electrically powered freefall lifeboat, has been developed in accordance with DNV-GL and Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) requirements. The idea behind this is to increase safety levels and mitigate the risk of a diesel motor not starting or performing poorly due to degeneration of functional testing.

The transition to an all-electric GES started with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations, as well as scale model and prototype testing based on Norsafe’s DNVGL-ST-E406-compliant GES 45 free-fall lifeboat. The project confirmed that replacing the diesel-based propulsion system with an electrically driven system would be a realistic and beneficial alternative.

While, environmentally friendly with no greenhouse gas emissions, the E-GES also eliminates problems associated with diesel fuel supply and contamination, as well as removing the possibility of fluid spills.

Carlsen explains, “There’s a lot of advantages for the operators, especially on the maintenance side, because they don’t need to deal with the diesel fuel and engine maintenance. For example, with the E-GES, operators no longer need to test the engines by starting and stopping them periodically in accordance with regulations. And this makes maintenance easier as well, because all the repeated starting and stopping isn’t healthy for engines. A lifeboat is normally checked and started on a weekly basis. The functional testing with starting the diesel engine results in soot and particle clogging over time. Within a 3 to 5-year period it is reported and found that engines reduce their output potential due to functional testing.”

GES freefall lifeboats are suitable for all types of ships and offshore installations
GES freefall lifeboats are suitable for all types of ships and offshore installations (photo: VIKING Life-Saving Equipment A/S)

The reduced requirement for on-board checks and inspections is only one factor in the significant reduction in opex cost for an electric lifeboat. Remote monitoring of equipment from bridge and onshore locations saves time, as the electric driveline can be remotely started and stopped, and its performance recorded, without personnel entering the lifeboat. The continuous connection includes charging the batteries, “so it’s always ready to save lives,” Carlsen says.

The system includes added safety via a redundant battery management system (BMS), which ensures functionality even in the case of failure or damage on one battery.

Because E-GES is capable of a higher top speed, safety during sail-away is also increased. Moreover, the lifeboat’s climate-controlled environment and reduced noise and vibration without diesel propulsion, means a higher level of personnel comfort when at sea.

The way forward
The first E-GES customer has been global energy major Equinor, which ordered electrically propelled lifeboats as part of its efforts towards full electrification offshore.

Carlsen refers to the 17 Goals of the United Nations’ “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, and says, “We’re all working to support environmental sustainability.”

“I think it’s a good sign that the industry is sending a signal that they are thinking about an electrical future, so I think for a lot of new project developments we’ll see that this will be a part of the scope. All in all, this is the way forward.”