Despite the significant changes in cruise ship design, size, passenger numbers, and onboard facilities over the years, indicative perhaps in the recent launch of the 250,800gt Icon of the Seas, the one design constant is the ubiquitously orange lifeboat – a regulatory means of evacuation slow to have evolved since the adoption of SOLAS in 1914.
Admittedly, the technology has changed in line with ever-increasing cruise ship sizes and passenger numbers over the years, but the concept itself has remained unchanged for millennia. I believe the cruise industry wants an alternative, safer solution to the traditional lifeboat/davit arrangement.
Certainly, from a naval architect’s and indeed the passengers’ perspective, the lifeboat and all of its ancillary equipment can be something of an eyesore. They usually take up two decks bow to stern, reducing not only the external space available on board for passenger experiences but impact on aesthetic appeal.
Imagine what a cruise ship could look like if designers had more creative leeway and more space to play with. There could be additional cabins, more retail space, additional entertainment venues, more light, unobstructed views, expanded external neighbourhoods and passenger enhancement. The possibilities are limitless.
Take a 250,00gt, 7,000-plus passenger carrying behemoth like the Icon-class vessel. If the lifeboats on these ships were replaced with Survitec’s Seahaven Advanced Evacuation System, which was type approved by Lloyd’s Register in July last year, an additional estimated 3600m2 or more could be freed up over two decks. And if this new space was given to, say, 80 balcony cabins, it could give the cruise line an additional US$8.4 million a year in revenue.
Newbuilds designed with Seahaven from the outset would free up significantly more space, potentially doubling the space gains. Compared to the traditional arrangement, just one 16.3 x 3.6m Seahaven AES can evacuate 1,060 passengers in under 22 minutes at the push of a button.
While the SOLAS regulation has a clause allowing lifeboat alternatives under the Novel A520 Alternative Design Approval process, I anticipate a revision of the rules within the next decade as more Seahaven equipped ships enter service.
It was the same when Survitec introduced the first ever Marine Evacuation System (MES) in 1979. It took a while for the rules to align with technological advancement.
Arrange to meet our team at Seatrade Cruise Global 27th-30th March to discover how you can unlock 85% of deck space with the world’s largest inflatable lifeboat. Contact [email protected] to set up a meeting with the Seahaven team.