A Guide Hydrostatic Release Units (HRUs)

As a seasoned sailor and maritime safety enthusiast, I’m excited to share my insights on Hydrostatic Release Units (HRUs) with you.

This article introduces you to the world of HRUs, covering their operation, types, and crucial regulations. I understand the intricacies around maritime safety equipment and aim to provide clear, reliable guidance.

Drawing from my extensive yachting experience, I’ve crafted this piece to resonate with both maritime professionals and sailing aficionados. Let’s begin by looking at their operation.

Operation and Mechanism

A Hydrostatic Release Unit (HRU) is a pressure-activated mechanism that plays a vital role in water safety. When a vessel sinks, the HRU activates to automatically deploy an EPIRB or life raft at a depth between 1.5 and 4 meters. This reliable release mechanism ensures the life raft inflates and becomes available for the crew in an emergency.

The working principle of an HRU is based on water pressure. When submerged to a certain depth, the increase in pressure triggers the release mechanism, disconnecting the life raft from the sinking vessel. 

You can discover more about this by learning how hydrostatic releases work. But in a nutshell, a built-in knife within the unit performs this essential task, while a weak link connects to the ship, allowing for easy detachment.

Types and Models

HRUs come in both disposable and disposable-type varieties. They are designed to automatically cut the connection, such as ropes or lashings, holding the life raft to the vessel.

In compliance with SOLAS regulations and IMO/SOLAS guidelines, various types and models of HRUs have been developed to cater to different marine applications.

One notable model in the market is the Hammar H20, a hydrostatic release unit designed for both Manual Remote Release Systems (MRRS) and Electronic Release Systems. The Hammar H20 can be suitable for a wide range of life-saving appliances, making it a best-selling HRU.

Hammar H20 R Hydrostatic Release Unit for Liferaft
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Models for small rafts have also been developed to cater to the specific needs of smaller vessels and recreational craft. These models are designed with the same pressure-activated mechanisms as SOLAS-approved HRUs, ensuring the same level of reliability and safety during their operation.

One particular aspect to consider when dealing with HRUs is their stowage and float-free arrangements. Proper installation of HRUs is crucial to ensure that the life raft will float free and automatically inflate if the ship sinks.

In the case of EPIRBs, HRUs like the HydroFix™ HRU are designed for quick release from Category I brackets when submerged in water within the same specified depth range.

ACR HydroFix Hydrostatic Release Unit [Cat I]

‎Hydrostatic Release Unit from ACR for Category I EPIRBs.

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Safety and Regulations

As a part of your vessel’s safety equipment, you should ensure that HRUs are properly maintained and serviced under SOLAS regulations and international maritime standards.

Servicing and Maintenance

Regular servicing and maintenance are vital to keeping HRUs in optimal working condition. According to the 46 CFR 131.585, non-disposable hydrostatic-release units must be serviced:

  • Within 12 months of their manufacture
  • Within 12 months of each subsequent servicing

However, some exceptions, such as delays approved by relevant authorities, may apply. Disposable HRUs expire and should be replaced per the manufacturer’s recommendations, generally ranging from 2-4 years.

📜 Approvals and Certificates: Your HRUs must hold necessary approvals and certificates from authorities like the IMO and SOLAS, meeting global standards for your safety at sea.

Frequently Asked

What is the weak link-breaking strength for HRUs?

The weak link-breaking strength for HRUs varies depending on the specific type and manufacturer. Check the manufacturer’s specifications to determine the breaking strength of the HRU you are using.

Which hydrostatic release unit is suitable for liferafts?

When choosing an HRU for a liferaft, ensure compatibility with the liferaft type and marine approval. Remember that regulations may differ based on the flag state and vessel type. Consulting the manufacturer or your liferaft supplier can aid in selecting the right HRU.

What is the lifespan of an HRU?

Generally, hydrostatic release units have a lifespan of about two years. After this period, they should be replaced to ensure reliable performance. It is crucial to check the expiration date on your HRU regularly and have it replaced before it expires to ensure that your life-saving equipment will function properly in an emergency.

Which hydrostatic release units are compatible with EPIRBs?

You must consult the EPIRB and HRU manufacturers’ guidelines to determine which are compatible. Some HRUs are specifically designed for specific EPIRB models, while others may be more versatile and compatible with multiple types. Selecting an HRU that meets the requirements and is approved for use with your EPIRB is crucial.

I’m the founder and chief editor here at Sailing Savvy. I spent a decade working as a professional mariner and currently, I mix those experiences with digital publishing. Welcome, and I hope that we can be the hub you need for safe passage.