Conference paper Open Access

The High Capacity Expanding Lifeboat HiCEL – Meeting the Modern SAR Challenge

Wright, J R E; Payne, G E

The Mediterranean migrant crisis has resulted in the highest population displacement since the Second World War. In 2016 alone, over one million made the journey across the sea. Since 2013 over 15,000 have died as a result of this journey. Small vessels such as wooden fishing boats and RIBs are commonly used by smugglers as transport. These are often unseaworthy and filled with numbers of passengers far exceeding their intended capacity.  

When failure occurs, rescues are typically conducted by the nearest available vessel. These vessels are often ill-equipped for a large-scale Search and Rescue (SAR) operation making it highly dangerous for all involved.  The size and quantity of lifeboats available are often insufficient for the large numbers of people to be rescued; as a result, repeat journeys are required, making the rescue process slow, inefficient and hazardous.    

This paper outlines a novel solution to this problem. A concept design is presented for a rapidly expandable lifeboat capable of holding large numbers of passengers, whilst still fitting into the operational envelope of common davits. The unique inflatable design can be deployed quickly from a range of vessels and aeroplanes offering an immediate platform from which disembarkation onto a suitable vessel can be achieved. CONOPS are outlined along with the required capabilities of the design. Drop stitch technology is identified as a viable means of manufacturing the large inflatable platforms.

Finally, the paper discusses an alternative solution, retrofitting existing enclosed lifeboats with the solution to offer a more cost-effective alternative.  

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