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Coast Guard isues liferaft safety alert

Jan 1, 2003

A Rhode Island liferaft service company was found by the Coast Guard to be improperly servicing inflatable liferafts and, in many cases, overlooking serious safety problems. The facility, which operated under several names including Jim Givens Survival Co. and Givens Ocean Survival Systems, was stripped of its authority to service rafts after an investigation revealed that out of 19 rafts checked all were deficient in some way, including expired CO2 canisters, missing safety equipment, and damaged fabric that had been superficially glued together.

"This was an extremely serious safety problem. We are working hard to get the word out on the exact nature of the situation," said Lt. Lisa Campbell, chief of enforcement and analysis for the Marine Safety Office in Providence.

One side effect of the incident was bad publicity for Givens Marine Survival Co., Inc. (GMS), based in Tiverton, R.I. GMS manufactures the distinctive globular Givens ballasted liferafts originally developed by Jim Givens. And while GMS still carries the Givens name, Jim Givens has had no involvement with GMS for several years. "We are not affiliated to Jim Givens. We are a separate company," said Frank Perrino, an owner of GMS.

Problems with the liferafts were discovered when a fisherman complained to the Coast Guard that his raft had not been properly serviced. After the initial complaint, the Coast Guard performed analyses of several rafts and discovered the magnitude of the problems, Campbell explained. Three rafts were taken out of service, two were condemned, 16 rafts had missing equipment, five CO2 cylinders were defective, 17 rafts contained items that were found to be expired at the time of the last servicing, and one raft had dry rot and tears in the fabric. Missing items included sea anchors, radar reflectors, flares, medical supplies, flashlights, food, water, whistles, bailers, and hand-pump parts. Expired items included EPIRBs, flares, medical supplies, food and waterin short, just about everything that is supposed to be present on a raft was either missing or found to be in poor condition.

"A contributing factor was that Givens had moved his service facility. But the Coast Guard issued certificates to service liferafts to specific locations so you can't just move your facility," Campbell said. Givens is no longer permitted to service liferafts and could face criminal charges if the Coast Guard investigation makes this recommendation.

The Coast Guard recommends that mariners who have had their liferafts serviced by Jim Givens at station #3 should have their rafts reinspected by Givens Marine Survival Co. in Portsmouth, R.I.: 401-624-7900.