Inflatable Life Rafts – Are they installed correctly?

Are you required or do you have an inflatable life raft onboard and is it installed correctly?


Unfortunately, what we often see when doing onboard training or vessel safety audits is some of the following:

  • The wrong cradle is used for the make and/or model raft
  • Tied down to the vessel so as they cannot float free or be easily deployed
  • No Stenhouse clip or other quick release mechanism attached
  • The use of twine or light line to secure the hydrostatic release with no knife to cut it
  • The painter tied to the vessel not the weak link

All of the above are serious issues when trying to deploy your life raft or worse still if the painter is tied to the vessel and the vessel sinks say goodbye to your life raft. in this situation your chances of survival are greatly reduced.

When installing your life raft ensure the following points are observed:

  • you are using the right cradle for your life raft 
  • the raft sits properly in the cradle
  • the securing strap/line is in good condition
  • there is a Stenhouse life raft pelican slip hook or similar quick release mechanism attached to the securing strap/line
  • the hydrostatic release is secured to the cradle or vessel appropriately (a shackle is best)
  • the Stenhouse life raft pelican slip hook or similar quick release mechanism is secured to the hydrostatic release appropriately. Usually the yellow “U” thimble on the top of the hydrostatic release. 
  • the painter is secured to the “weak link” on the hydrostatic release. This is usually the brown component under the hydrostatic release


By ensuring all of the above is completed properly when installing your life raft you and all other persons onboard have the best chance survival as the life raft will:

  • automatically deploy when the vessel sinks; or
  • allows you to quickly and easily manually deploy the raft

Also avoid tying the life raft painter to the vessel even if you think you have lots of time before the vessel sinks. By tying the raft to the vessel, you risk losing it if the vessel suddenly sinks!

The other question we often get asked is “what depth does the hydrostatic release activate?”

A hydrostatic release (HRU) is a pressure activated mechanism designed to automatically deploy a life raft under certain pressure. If your vessel sinks the HRU will activate and release your raft at a depth of between 1.5 and 4 metres.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Our number one recommendation is to ensure you have a procedure in place for the manual launching of your life raft in your SMS.

Secondly make sure you check your life raft to ensure it is installed correctly because in the event of taking on water and sinking you put the lives of all those onboard in danger.


If you use VB cord or light line to secure your hydrostatic release instead of using a Stenhouse life raft pelican slip hook or similar quick release mechanism you must have a sharp knife easily accessible to cut it. 

Best tip is to either tap a knife to the raft or secure it using VB cord. Either way it must be easily accessible to those who are tasked with deploying the raft.