Life Rafts Merchant Shipping

Rules for Life Rafts Merchant Shipping

1.1. SOLAS and LSA

According to international conventions, equipping a cargo ship with life-saving equipment must meet certain safety requirements. This is e.g. This is the case, for example, under the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

This agreement was negotiated by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) based in London, whose current 167 member states are constantly adapting the SOLAS regulations. The adjustments are usually made by the IMO's technical committee, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC).

Chapter III of this SOLAS agreement deals with life-saving appliances and arrangements, i.e. all life-saving appliances and the requirements placed on them. On the basis of this Chapter III, the LSA Code (Life-Saving Appliance Code) was adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee in June 1996 through the guideline MSC.48(66) to international standards for life-saving appliances, which are required by SOLAS, Chapter III , to introduce. This policy came into effect on July 1, 1998.

The LSA code was adapted and supplemented by the MSC.218(82) guideline, which came into force on 01/01/2008. As a result, some rules regarding the safety requirements for life-saving devices have been made more precise.

With guideline A.689(17) the IMO adopted the recommendations for the manufacturing tests of life-saving equipment at the end of 1991. In 1998 the Maritime Safety Committee of the IMO recognized the need to introduce more detailed requirements for the manufacturing tests of life-saving appliances and as a result adopted guideline MSC.81(70) which effectively supersedes guideline A.689(17).

An explanation of the contents of the various guidelines from IMO and MSC can be found on the Internet at (keyword: safety).

1.2. EU Marine Equipment Directive (MED/Steering Wheel)

In addition, the European Union endeavored to eliminate differences in the implementation of international standards in the EU member states by establishing common rules for equipping cargo ships with life-saving appliances. With this goal in mind, the EU adopted Council Directive 96/98/EG (EU Marine Directive or MED for short) in 1996, which came into force on January 1, 1999 for cargo ships flying an EU flag. According to this directive, a conformity assessment must be carried out at the manufacturers of life-saving equipment in order to obtain the conformity mark (steering wheel) required for the installation of this equipment on board a ship of the EU member states and ships that have agreed to the MED approval process. Since the entry into force of this directive, every life-saving appliance on board a cargo ship that flies the flag of an EU member state must bear the so-called steering wheel as a mark of conformity. The Directive does not apply to equipment already fitted to a ship at the time the Directive comes into force. However, if a piece of equipment is replaced or new equipment is involved, the guideline applies again. The appendix to this guideline contains which life-saving appliances are subject to approval according to this guideline. The following categories are listed there:

  • A.1/1.12 Inflatable liferafts

  • A.1/1.13 Rigid liferafts

  • A.1/1.14 Automatically self-righting liferafts

  • A.1/1.15 Canopied reversible liferafts

  • A.1/1.16 Floating Devices for Life Rafts (Hydrostatic Release Devices)

  • A.1/1.24 Liferaft launching devices

  • A.1/1.27 Ship evacuation systems

From the entry into force of the directive, newly manufactured equipment must comply with the international agreements referred to in this annex. A list of all products that are subject to approval and approved in this area as well as their manufacturers can be viewed on the Internet at after prior registration.

1.3. MER (Merchant Equipment Regulation/Red Ensign)

Post-Brexit, any EU Marine Equipment Directive (MED)-approved product (commonly referred to as Ship's Wheel Approval) manufactured after 1 January 2023 must also be subject to the UK's new Marine Equipment Regulations (MER, 2016), known as Red Ensign- Approval, to be approved and according to the SOLAS guidelines (Safety of Life at Sea).

This is checked by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which in turn is DNV UK Ltd. commissioned with the approval.

1.4. Useful links on this topic