I just wrote a long reply to this thread and lost
it somewhere between seeing it posted and clicking the submit button. Here's the short version....I work
in the life raft business and our company manufacturers many different brands of life rafts (and other life saving products). All or products meet IMO, USCG and other regulatory standards which means they are tested to extreme conditions before they are sold. To ensure the quality and reliability
, we can only service your raft with the parts
that proved to work
and they are expensive. The price
includes the quality of materials and testing they endure. Some rafts cost more than others because of the material that is used and the method of construction. DBC rafts use a composite material that stinks like vomit but have welded seams and last for many many years. Other brands use a rubber material that is glued together and lasts a long time but is subject to copperization, and will degrade if exposed to anything with copper in it. Polyurethane
is another material that is used and is inexpensive. They are glued together but are very prone to glue degradation when exposed to a combination of water
and temperature changes. There are lots of different rafts out there and you get what you pay for. Unfortunately, the perfect raft does not exist. They all have advantages and disadvantages.
Servicing rafts is very regulated and service technicians are liable for the work they do. We have to use OEM parts
and replace expired items. This is to ensure your raft performs as if it were brand new, despite the rafts age. Depending on the age of your raft, certain tests have to be conducted to ensure its reliability
. When your raft gets to ten years, you're looking at a gas inflation, hydro test of the cylinder, floor seam test, necessary additional pressure test, working pressure test, and hose blast test. As a raft ages, the material and parts become less reliable and need more testing to ensure it will work. That's about the time you need to weigh the cost of those additional tests against a new raft. When you get to that point, PLEASE talk to your service station and negotiate a good deal for yourself if you decide to buy a new raft. Our organization bends over backwards to earn your trust and business. We (and most other service stations) are more than willing to work with you. Sometimes we have to condemn a raft and we hate doing that. If your raft is condemned, you can almost always work out a good deal on a new raft for the price
of servicing your old raft, or at least, close to it.
In the mean time, there are a couple of things you can do to minimize the costs of servicing. Keep your container as dry as possible. Some people pressure wash the containers and we open the raft for inspection
and find a raft that is soaking wet and falling apart. Some containers have drain holes to let water
out but they're plugged up or stowed up-side-down.
When your raft is serviced, it should be returned to you looking brand new. We clean your raft and container as a courtesy but some places charge a cleaning
the raft is required but not the container. That's something you can negotiate. Another thing is the labels. We have to replace those ridiculously expensive labels if they are damaged or illegible. That's subjective sometimes and if you are happy with how the labels look, and the authorities can read them, then keep the old ones and save some money
. Finally, talk to your service station manager about options. Some of our customers only need a raft for a short period of time. Instead of enduring the costs of owning and maintaining a raft for years, look into renting
a raft for that crossing. If you choose to buy and maintain a raft, you're likely to find some savings if you talk with your service station. You can often get discounts for first time service, loyalty/repeat business, trade
in (our brand for that other brand) or any other reason you come up with. Bottom line is we want you to like doing business with us.