Grinch alert, fake life raft & EPIRB releases!
One reason that this holiday season seems a little gray was finding out that some bastards decided to make a few dollars by counterfeiting the Hammar H20 hydrostatic releases used on many ships to automatically deploy life rafts and EPIRBs in a desperate situation. And apparently they did a good enough job with the details to fool most users, but did not bother to make the things so that they’d actually work. Here’s the Safety Alert PDF, some useful commentary from the RYA, and a little black humor from the pros on the gCaptain forum. I am not a “Bah, humbug!” sort of guy, but I would be unmerciful with the creeps—so far uncaught—who put these fakes onto the oceans.
If I had one of these, I would check it. If I had an investigative journalist, I would have him check this story. I have no reason to doubt this story, but there’s not much info to be had and all of it is coming from one source. Why would someone bother to fake a cheap non-consumer item that has a limited market? What would be the business plan for that? I’d like to know where Hammar found the fakes and how many they found. They say they tested “several”. Is that several as in two, three, four? And that none of them worked to the Solas spec. But they say nothing at all about the interior mechanism. Was there one that was inferior or was it totally non-functional?
Here is a web page which gives a good idea of what’s supposed to be inside and how it works:
It also describes Hammar’s quality testing process and that reassures me. (It seems many companies these days outsource production to other countries then take no responsibility for lack of quality control).
The only incident I found involving this product was the Empress of the North grounding in 2007, and in that case the manual pumps were faulty, not the H2O release mechanisms.
Since these H2O units are supposed to be replaced every two years, a company in that business could clean up the old ones and recycle them as new (that seems more likely than counterfeiting). I would be curious to know where the bad units got into the distribution channel. Anyone would could make one of these units would also be able to print the manuals and labels too; those PDFs are on Hammar’s website.