By Dick Durham

Ocean Safety Ltd has liferaft suppliers, service stations and liferaft hire facilities in the US, Europe and many places around the world. Steve Bockett, technical advisor at the Southampton-based outlet in the UK listed his key tips for Ocean Sailor readers:


  • Make sure that you choose a liferaft that matches your requirements. This should cover things like maximum persons on board, distances to be sailed, stowage facilities i.e. container or valise.
  • If sailing bluewater an ISO 9650 Part1 approved raft with greater than 24hour equipment pack or grab bag should be considered.
  • Small commercial vessel coding regulatory requirements should be understood if applicable.
  • Make sure that you know how to launch your liferaft correctly. This includes the correct installation of hydrostatic release units.
  • If possible do a survival training course (RYA Sea Survival is ideal) to allow you to understand what may confront you if required to abandon your vessel.
  • Consider adding a grab bag to your safety inventory. This may include things like extra water, warm clothing, spectacles, medication and 101 other things that may be required after rescue.
  • Make sure that your liferaft is always serviced by a manufacturer-approved service station.

Do Not

  • Attempt to stow a valise packed raft into a locker that it only just fits into. Valise rafts can and do change shape and expand over time.
  • Editors note: All Kraken’s have a dedicated built in liferaft and an emergency tiller locker. Click here to see our previous article: Designing For Emergencies
  • Cut banding around containers
  • Attempt to service your raft yourself
  • Do not forget to attach the liferaft painter to a strong point on your vessel BEFORE deployment. The painter can be left attached in its’ stowage position.
  • Assume that you will be able to squeeze one more occupant into your raft.
  • Allow your liferaft to fall outside its recommended service interval.

Recommended liferaft launching points on a Kraken 50

Get liferaft savvy

Matt Barr, MD, of Premium Liferaft Services, Europe’s biggest liferaft hire company, explained the ins and outs of liferaft purchase and hire and what to avoid to Ocean Sailor magazine.

With over 30 years of experience, he offers a bespoke service and has supplied a liferaft service for customers which can include; the correct prescription drugs, or specialist spectacles, or enhanced survival kit to suit customer requirements.

He tells me that since the Marine & Coastguard Agency (MCA) phased out all Ocean Racing Council (ORC) rafts, the standard is now the ISO 9650 – brought about following the 1998 Sydney-Hobart disaster which claimed six lives. None were down to liferaft failure he explains; although some sailors were lost when their raft flipped and they cut a slit in the bottom for air and then went through the hole when it righted.

Matt gave us some sound advice for buying a liferaft:

  • Buy the best you can afford because, in his experience of the industry, you get what you pay for. You can find 4 man liferafts for sale on eBay for under £400. For a 4 man liferaft you should expect to pay €1000, (£850, $1200 USD)  – €1750, (£1,500, $2,000 USD).
  • Call a liferaft service agent and ask them for their advice on the best brands to choose from. A service agent sees all the different brands and should be able to give you good impartial advice.
  • Matt’s phone number is below and he told us he is very happy to offer his advice to our Ocean Sailor readers. Essentially he will only recommend liferafts that he would include in his own liferaft hire inventory.
  • Cheaper liferafts are a false economy because their service costs will be higher. They may be OK for one or two passages, but at the end of the day, if you have the misfortune to abandon ship and be sitting in one you’ll wish you had spent every last cent you had on it.
  • Whether you buy, or hire, go for a top-quality liferaft and keep it serviced.

Premium Liferaft Services Tel: +44 (0)1621 784858. Email:

Premium Liferaft Services is based in Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, UK

Dick Beaumont’s comment:

Go to a boat show, when they do eventually resume, and look at the various qualities of liferaft on offer, then imagine yourself in one and decide on how much you need to pay then.

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