Lifeboat & Recue Boat Diesel Engines – SOLAS Sets the Bar High

By George Backwell at October 26, 2010 04:46
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Marine diesel engines are remarkably trouble-free. Supply them with clean fuel, enough air, clean lubricating oil and ensure the compression is adequate, and they've got what they need to run – at least according to the leisure powerboat owner's conventional wisdom.

The problem is that diesel engines both large and small are designed to work under load, most being happy workhorses, although not the little high-speed diesel that powers the ship's lifeboat, stowed comfortably high up under the davits. All at once though, that same little engine takes the spotlight when there's need for an emergency launch with lives at stake.

How much actual running in the year is demanded by SOLAS regulations to ensure that engine, gear box and gear train are fit for purpose? Not much at all, just a minimum of three minutes every week, and obviously that's not under load, making it essential that onboard maintenance schedules according to the manufacturer's handbook are kept up, and kept current on the SMS checklist.

Incidentally, Volvo Penta came out at this year's Hamburg IMM exhibition with a new SOLAS range of small high-speed engines especially designed to withstand the tough lifeboat and rescue boat environment. The D3/D4/D6 range of common rail injection system high speed diesel engines, available in 14 output ratings, come with a 'SOLAS Kit' and are based on standard proven engine designs adapted to meet stringent SOLAS engine specifications that include:

  • Withstanding free fall of the lifeboat from 3 meters
  • Withstanding a lateral impact of 3.5 m/s on the lifeboat
  • Stopping automatically on capsize and easily restartable
  • Preventing loss of fuel and lubricating system oil in a capsize
  • Working submerged in water up to the crankshaft centerline
  • Running properly at an angle of up to 10 deg trim and an angle of up to 20 deg list, either way
  • Having a manual starting system or power starting system with two independent sources
  • Limiting electromagnetic emissions
  • Starting up without heater down to -15C


These state of the art, electronically controlled engines with advanced combustion systems, are backed up by a five-thousand strong worldwide network of Volvo Penta service centers and dealerships, to keep them in the best of health for the occasion when they take their turn in the spotlight.

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