In response to the current humanitarian crisis in the southern Mediterranean, Unique Group’s Buoyancy & Ballast division has developed and supplied reusable Seaflex buoyancy aids to facilitate large-scale rescues at sea. Each CentiFloat™ buoyancy aid has a 100-plus person capacity.

These were first used by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) Foundation on an operation to save approximately 700 migrants from a perilously-overloaded and unstable wooden boat on Thursday 6th August 2015.

Marco Cauchi of MOAS commented, “We are very happy to have the two CentiFloats on board. During the last rescue, they were an integral part of the operation. With so many people in the water, they worked exactly as intended, with many people in distress being able to secure themselves to the CentiFloats and remain safe.”

While the humanitarian consequences of these situations have been of the highest concern recently, the financial cost to the merchant shipping industry should not be underestimated. With over 800 merchant vessels redirected by MRCC Rome to search and rescue efforts in 2014 alone, the cost to the industry for search and rescue efforts is already believed to have exceeded $100 million.

Merchant vessels with high freeboard and small operating crews face huge challenges in delivering such assistance. They have restricted ability to maneuver the vessel, in additional to tidal considerations. Furthermore, desperate people in the water without lifejackets creates chaotic situations, often with devastating consequences and loss of lives.

Whether operated by a voluntary organisation, a Navy, or part of the merchant fleet, CentiFloat™ provides any vessel with an easy-to-use, reusable piece of equipment for managing a rescue operation.

For merchant fleet, it will enable them to play their part in such rescues without compromising the ship’s safety certificate, or requiring for port call or off-charter time.

A CentiFloat™ kit comprises 2 x 100 person 25m x 0.5m International Orange buoyancy aids. Each is constructed from heavy-duty, UV-stabilised, PVC-coated, high-tensile polyester fabric, which has been technology proven within the marine and offshore environment by Unique Group’s Seaflex brand since 1987. Each CentiFloat™ is fitted with 100m x 16mm floating polypropylene safety lines that form the lifeline and secure hold points for people in need of rescue. Complete with a blower that enables speedy inflation and deployment, each CentiFloat™ weighs 75kgs and can, therefore, be handled and over boarded by a crew as small as four. The kit is packaged within a 1.2m x 1.45m x 0.75m ISPM15-approved wooden case, weighing 200kgs.

“Without any requirement for specialist training or overhead handling, CentiFloat™ can be readied within minutes of sighting a migrant vessel. It can be overboarded just before final approach, which is currently proving to be a gravely dangerous process as migrants clamber to get off their vessels, often causing them to capsize,” commented Graham Brading, Managing Director of Unique Group’s Buoyancy & Ballast division.

The Centifloat™ system can be shipped within a matter of days to any voluntary, governmental or commercial organisation that may find their vessels in the midst of this crisis. It will equip their crews with a quick and easy method of saving desperate people from drowning around them.

More details of the CentiFloat™ system can be obtained from Seaflex directly.

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