Technical Circular No. 20 | 2016

Subject: United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Alert Reg Inspection of Life Jackets

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  • The USCG strongly recommends that vessel owners/ operators and masters to inspect unicellular plastic foam life jackets for potential indications of failure or degradation, specifically:
  • As a result of this discovery, the United States Coast Guard has issued a Marine Safety Alert 07-16 (copy attached) reminding all vessel operators / masters to routinely inspect life jackets on-board ships to ensure they are suitable for service.
  • During recent inspections, USCG has discovered that in certain type of Life Jackets, the unicellular foam buoyant material within the nylon outer shell had degraded significantly over time, broke apart, crumbled and in some instances was reduced to dust.
  1. Compression: The life jacket may be compressed from many years of stowage.
  2. Loss of resiliency: The life jacket is excessively hard, stiff or its foam is brittle. Normally after compressing the life jacket to about half its initial thickness, the foam should expand to its original dimension in a short period of time.
  3. Shrinkage: A physical reduction in size may be indicated by “wrinkling” of the coating on vinyl dipped type or by a loose fitting shell on a fabric-covered life jacket.
  4. The potential for problems applies to all older personal floatation devices (PFDs) and same should be closely examined.
  • Listed below are some basic care and checks which will prolong the life of life jackets;
  1. Always stow the life jacket in a well ventilated place away from direct sunlight.
  2. Avoid extreme heat.
  3. Do not put heavy objects on life jacket. Do not stow life jackets one on top of other. Life jacket loose buoyancy when crushed.
  4. Rough treatment will break down the foam cells and the foam also tends to shrink with aging, which is again accelerated by excessive exposure to heat.
  5. If a foam filled jacket feels flabby or the canvas cover appears loose over the filling, the jacket should be discarded.
  6. Inflatable life jackets to be serviced at regular intervals.
  • Ship Owners / operators and masters are advised to take note of the above USCG Marine Safety Alert and act accordingly.


This Technical Circular and the material contained in it is provided only for the purpose of supplying current information to the reader and not as an advice to be relied upon by any person.
While we have taken utmost care to be as factual as possible, readers/ users are advised to verify the exact text and content of the Regulation from the original source/ issuing Authority.


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