Gear to Keep You Safe

Grundéns launched their Nightwatch Puffy Jacket at Pacific Marine Expo (PME) last fall to rave reviews. In fact, the product sold out of stock within the first two months. “It’s an obvious winner with our customer base,” says Mike Jackson, President of Grundéns USA in Poulsbo, Washington. “It’s a really good item for us.”

The Nightwatch Puffy Jacket is unique in that it can be worn inside or out. With 60 grams of polyester fill quilted between two layers of light rip-stop nylon, the jacket keeps the wearer warm while not feeling heavy, bulky or impeding their natural movements. Its multi-functional capabilities also allow the wearer to use it for several tasks from light to heavy duty.

A new line of Balder PVC rainwear was also introduced at PME which was also very well received. Jackson reports the feedback from field-testing and use by commercial customers has been very positive. Lightweight and durable, the jacket also features a lightweight lined hood with draw cords and the accompanying Balder bib pants have reinforced leg cuffs as well as grommets located above the hip for the easy attachment of tools. The entire outfit is equipped with the reflective striping that is so crucial for visibility.

All these lightweight materials bode well for all fishermen, and the up and comers are especially responsive to it. “The young men who work on the decks these days recognize the value of lighter gear which provides professional-grade performance with less weight, especially if they’re wearing it for 20 hours a day,” says Jackson. “As these garments continue to have the ability to shed water and be durable while the fabrics continue to get thinner and stronger, who knows where the limit is in design.”

Survitec Group located in Vancouver, British Columbia, manufacturers and carries a variety of life-saving equipment and clothing. Products include life rafts, PFDs, EPIRBs, immersion suits, and more. Of particular note is a newly introduced AIS Beacon manufactured by McMurdo.

“If a fishermen was to fall overboard, the beacon after activation, will automatically send a signal to the vessel if it is equipped with an AIS plotter,” says Mark Hansen, Director of Sales. Hansen also notes that their Crewsaver brand of inflatable lifejacket, when equipped with this AIS beacon, is able to automatically activate the AIS beacon upon the lifejacket inflation, further increasing the timely rescue of the person in the water. Keeping the person above water and being able to quickly locate them will assist with recovery time.

For lifejackets, Survitec currently offers the Crewsaver Harvester personal flotation device (PFD), a hybrid, waistcoat-style. Making lifejackets easy to wear also goes a long way to making fishermen safe. “If they’re not comfortable, people won’t wear them,” adds Hansen.

The USCG- and SOLAS-approved Imperial immersion suits are the predominant choice. There are numerous sizes from adult universal, adult intermediate and adult jumbo. Besides a number of other standout features, the suits offer wide shoulders and legs for quick donning, a three-fingered mitt for increased hand warmth and palm grip studs for improved grasping, as well as being equipped with a whistle. Survitec is also one of the few companies that offer custom suit size options.

Survitec also manufacturers and sells the Elliot, Crewsaver and Zodiac liferaft brands. For example: the Survitec Zodiac Throw Over Liferafts are made with a durable polyurethane-coated fabric, and have a capacity range from six to 150 people. The four to eight-person SeaMaster includes a built-in canopy, a boarding ramp and a USCG-approved equipment pack.

Other diverse offerings include SOLAS-approved A pack (50+ miles offshore) + B pack (20-50 miles offshore) liferafts as well as a USCG-approved Coastal brand that have a cover, non-insulated floor, a minimum equipment pack that is approved for use in the up to 20-mile offshore range. Additionally, the IBA (inflatable buoyant apparatus), an uncovered liferaft, can also help people survive in protected areas for up to a day.

Hansen reports that larger commercial processing ships are now looking at the SurvitecZodiac Medium inflatable evacuation slide system that incorporates a twin-track inflatable slide that deploys at right angles to ships’ sides for vessels with freeboard heights of between 3.8 meters and 12.5 meters. This system provides the quickest way to evacuate passengers into a liferaft from higher freeboard heights. As time is critical this system could make the difference in a safer and successful vessel evacuation.

Pending regulations from the USCG could soon affect smaller commercial fishing vessels. A standard allotment of safety equipment will be mandated to be on board. “We would like to see more use of safety equipment aboard vessels, but unfortunately, it often takes a death to get regulations changed,” says Hansen. “Having said this, there has been more interest in safety by industry in the last five to 10 years. Companies are recognizing that it’s less expensive to be pro-active.”

Shawn Simmons from Marine Safety Services in Seattle says it’s important to regularly service or replace safety equipment. For instance, liferafts should be inspected annually, EPIRBs checked or replaced every five to seven years, hydrostatic releases every two and pyrotechnics every three.

The company also provides on-vessel safety equipment inspections to help ensure all safety equipment is complaint with USCG regulations. This includes making a list of anything that needs service, repair or replacing and then providing the appropriate gear.

One item Simmons says is gaining more attention is survival suits, which don’t get inspected as often as they should because, oftentimes, problems may not be readily seen by the naked eye and can only be determined with a pressure test. Right now, this is keeping the company quite busy. He adds: “In general, people are becoming a lot more safety conscious.”