Recovery position

For more than 30 years, Markus Lifenet has brought pioneering man overboard (MOB) rescue systems to the maritime market. Beginning in 1979 when the concept of dedicated MOB recovery equipment was rudimentary, Captain Markus Thorgeirsson transformed his experience of ships and the sea into a lightweight net now named the Markusnet. After producing the net, Markus began taking his products directly to fishermen around the country so they could see firsthand the advantages of this lightweight product. Its popularity in the industry quickly grew and by 1981 had gained recognition by the Icelandic maritime authority in their recommendation that it is present on all Icelandic vessels.

Markus himself died in 1984 but he passed on responsibility of operation and development to son-in-law Petur Petursson. He explains more about the expanded range of products that Markus Lifenet offers today: “We make two systems, the first of which is the fifth generation Markusnet MOB recovery system type MS available in six versions – four for the commercial market in a container and two for the workboat and leisure market in a bag. All have the same net structure and throw-line unit. The main difference is the length of the lifting lines, which range from zero to two, ten, 20, 30, and 40 metres. The knot lines cover the freeboard height of the vessel or offshore platform.

“The other is the Markus MOB scramble net type SCN system that is available in many sizes and various versions that depend on application. For example we make theSCN with six, eight, ten or 12 meshes wide from 4.5 metres up to 12 metres vertical length. This can be used on cargo ships with up to ten metres freeboard height. These units are from eight to 16 times lighter than traditional scramble nets so we can offer better value and more possibilities, such as nets that can be operated totally manually in any weather or situation. It also offers flexibility and durability; these units can be stored indoors or under shelter then brought by just one or two deck crew to either side of the vessel. All our units except the SCN2 (emergency MOB ladder or escape ladder) allow for lifting persons in a horizontal position either manually or by crane.”

There are several key factors that have made the Markusnet a novel and pioneering concept. One is that the safety of the rescuer is considered as highly as that of the person being rescued; the throw bag is a direct result of this consideration. Attached to the throw-line, the brightly coloured weight bag not only attracts the attention of the victim – an important factor in overcoming the panic a person suffers – but also means the rescuer can effectively cast the net toward the person in the water without submerging themselves, providing far greater safety. In the rare occasion that a rescuer enters the water, the Markusnet also comes equipped with an attachment line to ensure the rescuer always has a means of return. The product is supplied with a training manual that provides details not only on best practice for net usage but also general maritime safety through training guidelines and important safety considerations.

“In 1989 I carried out research into how the Markusnet had been used between 1981 and 1987 throughout Iceland and with that produced the training manual,” explains Petur. “From this we also learned that safety training was very important in making sure rescue and recovery equipment was used effectively. We came forward saying every ship should have a training programme and offer such programmes ourselves.”

The Markusnet has subsequently become a benchmark for recovery systems internationally, first being approved by British maritime authorities in 1986 and Denmark followed soon after. Most recently it gained SOLAS type approval from Lloyds Register in 2000. The widespread recognition of the SOLAS standard means the Markusnet has an almost endless potential client base. It has only come on the back of hardwork by the company itself in promoting the products, however. To date there remains no definition of ‘manual recovery’ within the Marine Stewardship Council’s legislation meaning very few companies have taken up the task of designing high quality, reliable manual MOB recovery systems. Markus Lifenet is a unique and pioneering company, buoyed by international approval, and driven by a desire to ensure crew and passengers remain safe.

The SCN was first brought to the market in 2002 following a request by a tourist riverboat firm for a product that a single crewman could operate if necessary. It has a significant advantage over competing models because of its weight – a net sized 1.2 metres by 12 metres for example is 25 kilograms, making it six times lighter than traditional scramble nets. Its mobility means it can be placed on either side of the ship and also carried to either side of the vessel. If there are two, then they can both be used to rescue multiple people. Its lightweight construction and flexibility have made it invaluable to many customers, with the US Navy amongst others quickly adopting 6.5 metre wide versions on some of their coastguard vessels.

Apart from the scramble net and Markusnet, the company offers a range of auxiliary product that furthers this philosophy. “My father-in-law left to me the idea for a safety ladder, for example, that could be pulled down beneath the water so that a person could just step onto it and climb onboard instead of lifting it with their hands like the basic IMO / SOLAS standard that remains in place today,” Petur says. “Markus left me the idea so that I could see if it worked and if there would be a market for it. It does, and there is. The ladder went on to become the basis for many of our newer products such as the scramble net, but also remains its own product.”

The safety equipment industry is relatively small due to many believing it a risky business; it is, after all, a one-sale market where products are intended to survive a lifetime if unused. Markus Lifenet has become a worldleading proponent in this sector, carving out a niche that few other companies have yet to approach using the experience not only of the company’s developers but also the feedback of customers across the world.

“It is important that we continue developing equipment that is realistic for ordinary crews on ordinary ships,” states Petur. “We bring the knowhow for doing this to the market, and aim to make it possible for a person in the water to be rescued from any height of ship in a quickly an effective manner. When I took over from my father-in-law, I decided to continue bringing his vision for lightweight systems usable from the ship itself to the market. That will not change in the future.”

Markus Lifenet
Pioneering rescue equipment
Lightweight, mobile products
Over 30 years experience