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It’s a very varied job, for example there are 18 different sorts of inflatable jacket and five types of buoyancy aid which we maintain, not only in use on warships but on smaller craft including the yachts used by the navy. Some are in heat sealed packaging and only require checking every four years, but if they are on personal issue then they are checked more often and can even be dealt with by a trained maintainer when at sea.

A yard outside the building is where the GRP containers are refurbished this includes stripping the old glue from the seals and repainting the container in warship grey. On site refurbishment has proved to be a major success as until recently it was contracted out doing it ‘in house’ is saving money. I was surprised to learn that the containers are also used for stocks of ‘Once Only’ survival suits. For More: E Conveyancing Melbourne

There are now three sizes of suit, small, medium and large, the small size only being introduced when women started to go to sea on a regular basis. The life raft packing room has ten service bays where the rafts are unpacked, serviced, checked and replaced. The liferafts are serviced every two years, although if a ship is about to deploy and the liferafts are going to time-expire while they are away, we replace them with ‘in date’ raftsCurrently there are two different types of raft, the NILEs (Naval Inflatable Life-saving Equipment) Mk 2 & 3 and the newer NL (Naval Liferaft) Mk 1, which are made by RFD Beaufort.

The NL Mk 1 has been in use with the Navy since 1998 and gradually the NILEs are being replaced. Although the rafts on Royal Fleet Auxiliaries look similar, those vessels use Board of Trade liferafts which are not packed at Portsmouth, although we do store them here. On average we service between 760 and 800 grafts per year, depending on how the fleet are working at that time. Sandy then introduced me to Sue Kealy, who has been worked with life rafts for over 12 years and is a qualified life raft packing instructor.

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