How often do I need to have my life raft serviced?
I often get asked, "when do I need to get my life raft serviced"? The simple answer is, it depends. Service intervals are set by the United States Coast Guard for inspected (passenger or cargo carrying) and commercial fishing vessels. For recreational vessels operating in US waters there is no regulatory requirement to get your raft serviced but manufacturers provide a recommendation for each of their products.
Inspected and Commercial Fishing Vessels
Life rafts must be serviced annually except non-SOLAS vessels are not required to have their new rafts serviced the first year they are put in to service. SOLAS class vessels have to have their rafts serviced every year and do not get the first year exemption. This is the regulation for all approved products.
If you are not required to carry a life raft, the USCG does not require you to have one serviced should you decide to have one on board. The manufacturer of your life raft does have a recommended service interval. Today the most common is every three (3) years although there are still rafts which annual servicing is recommended. I am not aware of any manufacturer with a recommended interval longer than three (3) years. Customers tell me that their raft only has to be serviced every five (5) years but they are mistaken.
Vessel operators who are not required by the USCG to have their life rafts serviced always ask if they can go longer than the recommended period. The answer is sure you can, nobody will stop you (at least here in the United States). Then again if the raft does not function when you need it you have real problems and most likely not come back to tell your tale. I can not recommend going any longer than three (3) years between servicing on any life raft.