Global manufacturer VIKING Life-Saving Equipment has partnered with KiwiRail to install its LifeCraft evacuation system on the first of two new diesel-hybrid-electric interislander ferries. The system is considered a “revolutionary hybrid solution” that combines lifeboat and evacuation system technology with benefits including space, weight and time-saving optimisation. KiwiRail ferries, which have served 800,000 passengers annually between New Zealand’s North and South islands for more than 60 years, will replace their fleet with the new vessels in late 2025 and early 2026. The LifeCraft system “not only offers a potential increase in safety, but also… saves a lot of space, weight, and time-consuming procedures”, said Massimo Soprano, Ships Program Director, iReX, KiwiRail. The system also enables digitisation of security checks before departure, freeing up crew time and improving safety.
The compact LifeCraft system’s lightweight and visually appealing design can also reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and ensure the ferry has ample space on deck. The system has a 30 minute evacuation capability and includes four self-propelled survival boats, each capable of carrying 203 passengers. After evacuation, electric propulsion enables each boat to maintain a safe position and support search and rescue missions in poor weather and rough seas. “KiwiRail’s decision to implement LifeCraft aboard its new Interislander fleet shows that the future of maritime safety is no longer just around the corner—it’s here now,” said Niels Fraende, vice president of LifeCraft Sales at VIKING.