"Hydro testing is not an option, it is required just as it is for SCUBA tanks
every 5 years." Not quite the same. A SCUBA tank must have a current
hydro test in order to be refilled
. It does not require a hydro test if it is just sitting in a closet. Since the gas cylinder in a life raft can simply be weighed
in order to determine if it has a full charge, there is no need to discharge the cylinder in a life raft, and no need to recharge it--ergo no requirement that it be hydro tested per se.
It is easy for a shop to say they have to discharge the cylinder and refill it, but all that accomplishes is raising your bill and freezing the life raft material during the discharge--which helps shorten its life and then of course, gee, you need to buy a new raft.
Call me a curmudgeon, but there's no absolute and routine need to discharge a perfectly good gas bottle UNLESS it has leaked. Especially when it is full of inert gas, not the oxygen loaded air that's in a SCUBA tank. There's a lot of FUD in the SCUBA business.
Yeah, hold onto your socks, the life raft certification
business is damned expensive, even more so for "certified" shops. I sometimes think a very good case can be made for simply selling a raft and replacing it with a new one every two years, instead of paying the certification fees
and eventually, the raft is condemned anyway. Sadly, they're all very much disposable goods. The guy who figures out a new paradigm for life rafts that don't rot
on the shelf is probably going to make a lot of money