The first deployment of a Zodiac Medium Inflatable Slide (MIS) MES escape slide by the French Navy was a successful demonstration of the new system’s capability. The slides had been installed aboard the newly-built Mistral Class amphibious assault ship Dixmude and the demonstration was part of the ship’s commissioning process.
The new 21,300 ton helicopter carrier is the third ship of its class to have been built at St Nazaire, France, by STX France. It was launched late last year and is scheduled to enter service with the French Navy in 2012.
The new Mistral class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, up to 40 tanks and 450 soldiers and will join its sister ships the Mistral and the Tonnerre which are already key elements of the French Navy.
The Zodiac escape slides are an essential part of the ship’s safety equipment as they enable the rapid evacuation of personnel into liferafts from a height of 9.3-metres. The new twin track slides have been supplied with four Zodiac 100-person canopied liferafts and SOLAS A-class equipment packs.
The slide design is known to provide the fastest evacuation speed for small to medium-sized ships and high speed craft as it can enable the escape of 731 passengers in 30 minutes when used with Zodiac’s Throw-Over 150 person canopy life rafts.
The Zodiac MIS MES evacuation system is deployed at right angles to the ship’s side and is available in four sizes covering freeboard installations from 3.8 to 9.3 metres. It is designed for deployment at an angle of 35 degrees and is suitable for a wide range of vessels.
The Zodiac SOLAS MES MIS may be supplied for new buildings or for retro-fitting and can be provided with a choice of Throw-Over 150 person (B Pack), Open Reversible Inflatable 100 or 151 person (HSC Pack).
The Throw-Over 100 person (A or B Pack), as supplied to the Dixmude and the Throw-Over Self Righting 100 person (A or B pack) are the newest additions to the Zodiac range and they extend the options available to shipyards.
The Zodiac life rafts are stored in a GRP container and the inflatable slide is folded and rolled around it on a tilting deployment cradle. All life rafts used by the new system are of the Zodiac Aspirator type which makes it possible to reduce the overall weight of the system.
A regular Throw-Over Self Righting 150 person raft weighs 840 kg whereas a Zodiac Solas Aspirator Throw-Over 150 person life raft weighs just 490 kg which makes it particularly suitable for use on high speed craft.
Manufactured in France, at the modern Zodiac factory at Chevanceaux near Bordeaux, the escape systems fitted to the Dixmude are EC(MED) approved by Bureau Veritas. The design successfully passed heavy weather sea trials when it was shown to operate well in winds of Beaufort Force 6 to 7 and with wave heights from 4.5 to 5-metres and, on occasions, up to 8-metres.
This performance significantly exceeded the commercial regulatory requirements which are limited to wind strengths of Beaufort Force 6 with 3-metre wave height.