Where does the safety gear go?

New boats are commonly offered with everything from decorative underwater lighting to built-in cup holders. Yet, no one seems to think about providing a dedicated space on deck for safety equipment, leaving owners to find storage spots throughout the vessel for gear that could possibly save lives. Almost every boat can sink. And it doesn’t take running into a rock to do it. A corroded hose clamp that fails will suffice, as will a following sea entering through a muffler that has rusted away unseen.

Some might ask: Why is centralised, easily accessible storage of safety equipment not mandatory or at least considered important? In Australia, and in fact internationally, there aren’t any regulations about where safety and survival items are stored on recreational boats. However, on commercial vessels, AMSA does regulate the storage of marine safety equipment. Perhaps as awareness grows, safety authorities will advocate for the concept of centralised safety equipment. But until this happens, and the marine industry addresses the dangers of haphazard storage, it’s up to boat owners to find a solution.

Many boat owners keep emergency equipment in a “ditch kit” or “grab bag.” Typically a nylon sack or plastic container, it holds visual distress signals, such as a mirror, flares and smoke, a whistle or horn, and VHF radio - everything that’s needed if suddenly treading water. Unfortunately, grab bags are all too often stowed in the cabin, centre console or gunwale. While this may be a convenient location if the boat runs out of gas, it’s a different story if there’s a fire on board or it’s taking on water uncontrollably. A fact not lost on the survivors of a boat capsize off Cronulla Beach recently, when two men waited several hours before deciding to dive back under the boat to try and locate the EPIRB which was inconveniently located.

Recognising the problem and inspired to help save lives, Life Cell Marine Safety set about to redefine the standard of how safety equipment is stored on boats. The Life Cell not only holds safety and survival gear but provides flotation for up to eight adults, depending on the model. It’s mounted outside on a special bracket that allows it to float off a sinking boat—like an EPIRB or life raft. It is approved by AMSA as a buoyancy device and certified by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) as an buoyant throwable device.

Until standards or best practices are developed for on board storage of emergency equipment, boat owners will bear the responsibility of where gear is stored and how quickly it can be accessed. Boat manufacturers have the opportunity to lead the way and provide a designated storage solution for marine safety equipment. Providing a buoyant float-free storage device that is highly visible and easily accessed will not only improve the safety of their customers but also set them apart as a brand of choice by the discerning consumer.

Life Cell will be on display at the BLA stand (No 615) at the Sydney International Boat Show in August.

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