Babcock Life Rafts Contract Achieves Final Milestone

Harbour Acceptance Trials of Babcock’s innovative containerised life raft system developed for the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) have been successfully completed on HNLMS Walrus, the fourth and last of the Walrus class submarines to receive the technology, at the Den Helder naval base.

The achievement marks the last milestone in a six year contract between Babcock and the Dutch Ministry of Defence for the design, build, installation and commissioning of the life raft systems for forward and aft locations on the four Walrus class submarines.  The first systems were installed on HNLMS Dolfijn during a programmed refit in 2007.

The Babcock-designed and developed life raft system allows for release, either while surfaced or submerged, of a 35-man SOLAS-approved life raft with survival kits and automatically activated GPS search-and-rescue indicator beacon.  The two life rafts have the capacity to accommodate the full crew.

The rafts, supplies and GPS beacon are contained within a GRP pressure vessel stored in a cradle between the pressure hull and casing in the submarine.  The release mechanism can be operated from inside the submarine or from on top of the submarine casing, and is unique in requiring only one pressure hull penetration.  When released from a submerged submarine the container rises to the surface, where the life raft self-inflates triggered by a pressure sensor.  Inflation is automatic when released on the surface.  The life rafts remain tethered to the submarine so that the escaping crew can locate the life raft and to mark the position of the submarine.  The system operates independently of the other submarine systems, and offers improved survivability for the submarine crew.

Babcock Project Manager James Woolford said: “We are delighted to have reached this significant, final milestone in the contract, reflecting the good working relationship and close cooperation between Babcock, the Dutch Navy and naval dockyard personnel at Den Helder. 

“Having been appointed by the Dutch Ministry of Defence to supply, install and commission the life raft systems for its four Walrus class submarines, replacing the originally fitted indicator beacons, we have been undertaking an installation programme within the submarines’ planned maintenance schedule, for minimal disruption to the operational programme.  The system is designed to provide a valuable and effective safety measure for submarine crews, which can be customised for retrofit into existing submarine platforms, as in the Dutch submarines, or designed for new-build submarine platforms.”

Netherlands Ministry of Defence Project Manager Martin Jansen said: “We are happy with the resulting life raft systems and the improved safety it offers to the submarine crew, and looking back the same is true for the co-operation with Babcock over the years of the project.”

Source: Babcock International
Date: Apr 29, 2013