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If you asked people to name the most notable historical events in the 20thCentury then you can be certain that most of them would mention the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Famously hailed as “unsinkable” by its creators, it clashed with an iceberg causing the deaths of more than 1500 people. This event sent shock waves across the world and since then there have been several rules developed to prevent such a disaster occurring again.

The British Passengers’ Acts of 1855 and 1863 attempted to regulate the life boats taken aboard ships. This was the first official attempt to ensure that everybody on board a vessel was provided with a life jacket. However in 1870 it was to some extent dismissed when it was decided that persuading ships to waste valuable space with lifeboats and lifejackets instead of carrying more stock was impossible.

In 1912 the Titanic was only carrying 20 lifeboats, each of which could carry 47-65 people. As silly as this always seems to us in the modern day, it was actually completely legal at the time. The Board of Trade specified only that ships weighing over 10,000 tonnes had to carry 165 lifeboats (able to hold 990 individuals).

Following the event, SOLAS (The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea), an international maritime safety treaty, ruled that “at no time of its voyage may a ship have a total number of persons than that for whom accommodation is provided in lifeboats”. This is the most fundamental legal requirement regarding life rafts today.

Now there must be enough life rafts to cater for all passengers and staff on board in the event of an emergency. For example, if there are only 4 people on board then there must be a life raft large enough to secure 4 people; equally if there are 300 people on board then there must be enough life rafts to safely carry them. The same rules apply for aeroplanes; an air craft must have enough life rafts to cater for everybody on board.

Life rafts are a collapsible alternative to a lifeboat; they contain a high pressure gas which inflates automatically in emergency. Commercial liferafts have to be checked annually be an approved and authorised LiferaftService Station. The inside of the life raft will be inspected; the equipment that it can contain is much less than a lifeboat. However, a life boat is completely open so only a crew member is required to check it periodically. SOLAS now require all merchant ships to have life rafts on each side of the ship. There must be enough to cater for all of the passengers.

If you would like any more information about life rafts and where you can purchase them, please visit our website at http://www.adecmarine.co.uk/ or on 0208 686 9717.

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