Dutch builder Verhoef is constructing the world’s first electrically powered freefall lifeboat.
The first of the new aluminum 32-passenger lifeboats, which recently passed its final drop tests, will be deployed on an offshore platform in the new Valhall Flank West oilfield project in Norway. The contract includes an option for similar lifeboats in the future.
Torqeedo has provided an integrated electric propulsion system for the vessel, consisting of a 50kW (80hp) Deep Blue inboard electric motor powered by three 30.5kWh Deep Blue batteries with technology by BMW i. The system is designed to withstand the heavy g forces of freefall launch and provide 30 minutes at full speed, followed by 10 additional hours at 50% maximum speed. The electric system also includes an inverter to drive a water spray pump, which is a requirement in case the craft drives through burning oil on the water’s surface.
According to Verhoef CEO Martin Verhoef, a primary motivation behind the switch to electric power is to reduce the high maintenance costs of diesel engines currently in use. “Experience has shown that diesel lifeboat engines require a great deal of ongoing maintenance and repair. Soot accumulation in the seldom-run engines can cause internal damage and negatively affect the performance and reliability of the evacuation system. Electric propulsion also eliminates the need to transport, store and handle diesel fuel on the platform.”
The company estimates that the electric propulsion system will reduce operating costs by 90-95% compared with combustion-powered lifeboats. The built-in connectivity function will enable remote monitoring of the condition of the electric system from shore. The system also comes with a nine-year battery capacity warranty.
“This is what the industry has been waiting for to reduce its OPEX and carbon footprint,” added Verhoef. “We are convinced that electric propulsion will be the wave of the future for lifeboat technology. While we are focusing initially on applications like oil platforms, which have shorter distances to travel to reach shore, we believe this technology will also ultimately transform the shipping and cruise industry as well.”