Life rafts are provided as a life saving appliances on every sea going merchant or passenger vessel in addition to the lifeboats. Life rafts are much easier to launch as compared to life boats and in case of emergency situation, evacuation from the ship can be done without manually launching any of them as the life rafts are designed with auto inflatable system.
Life rafts are normally located on muster station, on port and starboard side near the life boat, and fwd and aft of the ship. The location generally depends on size of the ship. Life rafts are stored in a fiberglass container, incorporated with a high pressure gas used for inflating life raft at the time of emergency. A Hydrostatic Release Unit (HRU) is connected to raft container and ship, which release the raft even after the ship sinks in water.
The particulars of the raft is stenciled on the container which includes the capacity, manufacturing date, servicing date, company name etc.The basic survival items are already stored in the raft which includes rations, pyrotechnics, life jackets etc.
Some ships carries a davit launching system which allows the crew to inflate and board the raft on deck, avoiding the risk of going into the sea water.