I have been servicing life rafts since 1983 and in those years have seen the cost of servicing become horrible especially if you need to obtain service in the United States. Several factors are driving the cost:
1. Cost of supplies. Service stations need to make a profit and we must mark up our cost of supplies. Only a few years ago many rafts were made in the US from domestic components. Now two manufacturers control the bulk of the world production (Survitec and Viking) and all the parts
come from overseas. We also have the trend of the manufacturers charging
us more for the parts
to satisfy their stockholders.
2. Cost of training. Contrary to what you may read, every life raft is different and requires training to properly service it. There have been several documented problems with rafts that did not deploy properly due to improper service by non-trained technicians. The recreational raft industry has adopted the same training standards as the commercial
industry uses, each technician needs to go through refresher training every three years. Once again, service stations are a business and this expense gets passed on to the customer.
3. Cost of insurance
. Liability insurance
is expensive and as an owner of a service station I must carry it. Right now it costs me about $70.00 per raft I service to cover my insurance expense for that portion of my business. This is an area where other countries benefit by having different liability standards.
4. Less rafts to service. Pre 2000 all life rafts had a recommended service interval of 1 year. Now with the vast majority of recreational rafts we have a 3 year service interval. Sure nobody listens to these recommendations but what I have seen is a general increase in the interval between servicing. It used to be about 2.5 years and now it is closer to 5. Less rafts to service means higher cost per raft on items like technician training and insurance (which has minimum premiums).
So, back to your question, what does it cost to service a life raft? The short answer is "it depends". Taking a 3 year old Zodiac
offshore recreational raft:
Vacuum bag and misc parts: $197.60
Estimated total: $752.10
At 5 years you need to do cylinder maintenance
, replace inflation hoses and the lithium batteries that power the lights which adds around $500.00 to the cost. If there are repairs
or replacement of damaged equipment that is another expense, and so on, and so on.
Different brands (or models) have different parts requirements and in some cases additional testing is required. The end result is it all adds up in a hurry. Ten years ago I hardly ever had a service cost over $1000.00, even for commercial
rafts. Now I hardly every see one under $1000.00 and that additional expense is not ending up in my pocket.
I hope this helps as long winded as it became. If you need further information you can always call me at Westpac Marine