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Thrown a lifeline

Ship & Boat International: eNews July/August 2019



A line-throwing device produced by New Zealand’s Kiwi Rescue Ltd has the potential to be used as a man overboard (MOB) casualty recovery device, its developer tells Ship & Boat International. Dubbed the Line Launcher, the solution was developed by Gerald Davies and the company Kiwi Rescue, in cooperation with various worldwide consultants, to create a line thrower capable of fulfilling multiple land- and marine-based tasks – ranging from office block crisis response and mountain/alpine rescues, to vessel assistance and inter-ship cargo/equipment transfers.


As Davies puts it, it is naturally difficult to ensure an accurate aim when throwing an object (such as a lifebuoy) beyond 5-7m. The Line Launcher is designed to propel a rope-attached flotation device, or ‘pod’, up to 80m, to create a connecting line to help rescue persons, tow distressed vessels and transfer small cargoes from ship-to-ship / ship-to-shore (and vice versa).


The Line Launcher measures 805mm (l) x 94mm (w), has a height of 183mm amd weighs 3.5kg. Prior to launch, one end of the 2.5mm-diameter, hi-vis floating polypropylene line is connected to the moulded composite pod. Davies says: “The pod provides the shape, inertia and weight to track accurately in all weather conditions.” The operator then uses the Line Launcher’s push rod to secure the pod at the bottom of the barrel, ready for launch. The other end of the line is tied to a secure surface or structure, such as a harbour fence or a boat rail. The operator then clips a 16g CO2 cylinder into place, which provides the pressure to propel the pod from the Line Launcher to its target.


“The line strength is 80kg, which is fine for pulling a person or a dinghy,” says Davies. “However, we can use a wide range of strengths, particularly with Dyneema. With larger line canisters, or even a bucket, much stronger and thicker polypropylene lines can be used; the unit is very flexible.”


Initial system trials have yielded favorable results. In tests conducted with Antigua and Barbuda Search and Rescue (ABSAR) in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua last year, the Line Launcher was able to launch to its full 80m range upwind, in the face of a 20knot breeze. The device has also achieved ISO 9001 certification.


Further tweaks are ongoing, Davies explains. “We are working on a development which will include a pod containing a buoyancy device, which will inflate on contact with the water,” he says. This move will likely bolster the Line Launcher’s MOB recovery credentials; the buoyancy device will provide a greater surface area for MOB casualties to cling onto.