“we would like to ask you with a certain urgency to check if you or your customers still have any piece of this model of lifebuoy with date of production January 2004.
“If you will find it, you will have to make a simple test consisting in the following steps:
1. To weigh the lifebuoy;
2. To remove one of the four reflective tapes covering the hole;
3. To check if the lifebuoy is full of foam material.
4. If the lifebuoy isn’t full of foam material it’s necessary to put it in water for some minutes to let come the water inside the lifebuoy.
5. To weight the lifebuoy and to compare this result with the first one; the difference hasn’t to exceed 400 gr.
In the case of higher difference between the two weights, the lifebuoy will have to be eliminated from the safety equipment of the ships and immediatly sent back to the supplier.
Veleria San Giorgio will replace it as soon as possible.”
A second lifebuoy reported to have similar problems is Greek company Eval’s Lifebuoy Code 542. In a public letter, however, the company managing director denies any knowledge of the problem:
“My name is Vallianatos Evaggelos and I am the Managing Director of E.G. Vallianatos S.A. (EVAL).
“Our Company was established in 1976 by having its own building of 5000 s.m. and over 50 employees. We are manufacturers of marine lifesafety equipment with a Quality Control Dpt of 3 persons. We have customers not only in the Greek market but in abroad as well and our cooperation is based in sincerity and respect.
“Also, our Company has all Certificates referring to our ISO Quality System, our MED products and our Quality Control (you can find attached the Certificates with this letter).
“We have recently been informed that there is an alert considering MED lifebuoys. With this letter, please find attached the Module B Certificate for our lifebuoy with code 542 and the technical specifications of the polyurethane foam we use from the approved supplier BAYER . Also, we would like to inform you that we have never received any similar complain about our lifebuoys.
“Furthermore, after contacts we had with the competent authorities which declared this alert, we have not received any proofs or evidences, although we have asked for details and evidences several times, proving that our lifebuoys have quality problems.
“For the above reasons, we would like to inform you, that our lifebuoys have the best possible quality, with respect to the MSC regulations.
“We would like to thank you for the understanding and the cooperation so far. Our will is to continue this cooperation under trust and sincerity for many more years.
“P.S.: In case you find any quality problem, or you have any question considering our MED lifebuoys, do not hesitate to contact Mr. John Kioussis-the responsible person of the Quality Control Department- by email to the address email@example.com or by phone to the number 00302105590872 (ext. 215).
E.G. VALLIANATOS S.A”
Despite that, the Norwegian Maritime Directorate reports:
“Serious safety issue concerning life buoys
Life buoys fill up with water and sink when deployed in water.
Based on information received from the Swedish Maritime Authorities and recent reports from Norwegian ship-owners, the Norwegian Maritime Directorate (NMD) hereby issues a safety alert concerning buoyancy issues on life buoys.
Model: VELERIA SAN GIORGIO, Italy, wheelmark nr. 0474.
The cause being an event in Sweden where suspicion arose when checking life buoys and finding them heavier than normal. Upon further inspection it was discovered that the life buoys were filled with water and that water was dripping out in the area around the reflective tape. There was also a visible crack on one of the reflective tapes, and when pushed on, a 15mm hole appeared. Several litres of water were subsequently drained from this hole. When the life buoys were thrown into the water, they sank. The issue seems to be related to the foam inside the buoy. The foam does not fill out the available space inside the buoy and leaves room for water to ingress. The cause of this foam related problem is not known at present. The inspection revealed that all life buoys (which had been bought in 2004) on board the vessel had the same problem.
Model: EVAL, Lifebuoy Code: 542, Greece, wheelmark nr. 003807
In connection with inspection of life buoys on Norwegian vessels, issues of a similar nature as described above has been identified with life buoys manufactured by the Greek company, EVAL.
Says the North of England P&I Club, which brought MAC’s attention to the problem:
“The Norwegian Marine Directorate has issued advice in respect of two models of lifebuoy that have been found to sink when used. Obviously this trait is highly undesirable for a lifebuoy. The problems appear to stem from holes located under the retro-reflective tape that are designed to allow some water ingress but that should stop the complete flooding of the lifebuoy.
The models involved are:
- EVAL, Lifebuoy Code 542
- VELERIA – SAN GIORGIO -ITALY – Altura Lifebuoy 2.5kg “
Denmark’s Maritime Authority adds two more to the mix:
“The European Commission has issued a warning that lifebuoys of the makes “Altura”, “EVAL”, “Perrybuoy Cosalt” and “UNITOR” may be defective.
The lifebuoys have a hard, outer shell and have through a hole been filled with buoyancy foam on the inside. The hole is not closed watertight. Over time, the foam may shrink and give room for water so that the lifebuoy loses its buoyancy. It is possible to check whether the cavity is filled with foam through a hole below the reflective tape.”