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RNLI Lif​eboat Fleet​

The RNLI curre​ntly operate from a total of 46 stations in the Republic and Northern Ireland. 

Different classes of lifeboat are needed for various locations, depending on geographical features, the kind of rescue work that the station is asked to do and the cover provided by neighbouring stations.

RNLI lifeboats are divided into two categories: all-weather and inshore.

All weather Lifeboats (ALB)

All-weather lifeboats (ALBs) are capable of high speed and can be operated safely in all weather. They are inherently self-righting after a capsize and fitted with navigation, location and communication equipment. Current All weather lifeboat classes (ALBs): Mersey, Severn, Shannon, Tamar and Trent are in service at Irish Lifeboat stations.

Mersey Class Lifeboats

The Mersey class lifeboat is designed primarily to operate from a carriage on a beach but can also operate off a slipway or lie afloat.

The Mersey was introduced into the RNLI fleet in 1988 and the last Mersey class lifeboat was built in 1993.

Trent Class Lifeboats

Developed by the RNLI in the early 1990s, with a maximum speed of 25 knots, propeller protection and a range of 250 nautical miles.

The Trent was introduced into the RNLI fleet in 1994 and the last Trent class lifeboat was built in 2003.

Severn Class Lifeboats

Developed in the early 1990s, the Severn class is designed to lie afloat, either at deep-water moorings or at a berth. 

The Severn was introduced into the RNLI fleet in 1995 and the last Severn class lifeboat was built in 2004.

Tamar Cla​ss Lifeboats

The Tamar class is one of the most modern all-weather lifeboat classes currently in service with the RNLI.

The Tamar was introduced to the RNLI fleet in 2005 and the last Tamar class lifeboat was built in 2013.

Shannon Class Lifeboats

The Shannon class is the most modern all-weather lifeboat classes currently in service with the RNLI.

The Shannon was introduced to the RNLI fleet in 2013 replacing the Tyne and Mersey class lifeboats.

Inshore Lifeboats (ILB)

Inshore lifeboats (ILBs) usually operate closer to shore than ALBs, in shallower water, close to cliffs, among rocks or even in caves. Currently Atlantic 85 and D Class serve Irish Lifeboat stations.

D Class (IB1) Lifeboats

First introduced into the RNLI fleet in 1963, the design of the inflatable D class lifeboat continues to evolve to meet changes in demand and technology. The current version the IB1 was introduced in 2003.

These fast, light inflatable boats are suited to shallow water and confined locations.

B Class (Atlantic 75) Lifeboats

The Atlantic 75 is part of the B-class of lifeboats that served the shores of the United Kingdom and Ireland as part of the RNLI inshore fleet.

These boats gradually replaced the Atlantic 21 fleet, but are now in the process of being replaced by the third generation Atlantic 85 lifeboat.

B Class (Atlantic 85) Lifeboats

The Atlantic 85 is part of the B-class of lifeboats that serve the shores of the United Kingdom and Ireland as a part of the RNLI inshore fleet.

The Atlantic 85 is the third generation B-class Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) developed from the Atlantic 21 and the later Atlantic 75.

Rescue Water Craft (RWC) & Boarding Boats (BB)

Rescue Water Craft (RWC)

The Rescue Water Craft (RWC) is a jet ski operated and equipped for search and rescue. Being water jet driven the hazard of the propellers is removed and the shallow water capability enhanced.  

Boarding Boats (BB)

As the name suggests, Boarding Boats are generally used to access the All-Weather lifeboat moored off-shore. 

Retired Lifeboat Classes

Waveney Class Lifeboats

The Waveney class lifeboat was the first class of lifeboats operated by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) capable of operating at speeds in excess of 10 knots. 

Based on an American design, 22 saw operational service between 1964 and 1999 at the RNLI's stations around the coast of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Read More>>

Tyne Class Lifeboats

The Tyne class lifeboat was the first introduced in 1982 and was the RNLi's first 'fast' slipway launch lifeboat. The Tyne class can also lie afloat. 

The last Tyne was built in 1990 and the class was replaced by the Tamar and Shannon class lifeboats. Many of the retired Tyne class lifeboats have now been sold to other rescue organisations across the world. Read More>>

B Class (Atlantic 21) Lifeboats

The Atlantic 21 was the first generation Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB), originated at and by Atlantic College in South Wales, the birth place of the RIB after which the craft is so named.

All Atlantic 21 class lifeboats have retired from RNLI service with last one standing down from service in 2007. Read More>>

RNLI Fleet Facts

The RNLI have over 350 lifeboats based at stations around the UK and Ireland. 

Between them, RNLI lifeboats cover 19,000 miles of coastline and some busy inland stretches of water.

The RNLI have over 100 lifeboats in the relief fleet, ready to temporarily replace station lifeboats whenever they require regular or emergency maintenance.

RNLI lifeboats are divided into two categories: all-weather lifeboats and inshore lifeboats.

The type of lifeboat a station has depends on geographical features, the kind of rescues the station is involved in and the cover provided by neighbouring lifeboat stations.

All-weather lifeboats (ALBs) are capable of high speed and can be operated safely in all weather conditions. They are inherently self-righting after a capsize and fitted with navigation, location and communication equipment.

Inshore lifeboats (ILBs) usually operate closer to shore, in shallower water, near cliffs, rocks and even in caves.

The RNLI also operate inshore rescue hovercraft for areas that are inaccessible to conventional RNLI lifeboats such as mud flats and river estuaries.

Rescue Hovercraft

RNLI inshore rescue hovercraft can reach areas inaccessible to conventional lifeboats, extending our lifesaving capability around the coast. There are currently no Rescue Hovercraft based at Irish stations.

Hunstanton lifeboat volunteers onboard their rescue hovercraft, The Hunstanton Flyer H-003, at sunset. Photo Nigel Millard

Typically, the hovercraft operates on large areas of tidal mudflats or sand where the surface is too soft to support land vehicles and where the water is too shallow for boats.

Each year, these areas see a number of incidents where people are caught out by the rising tide or trapped in quicksand or soft mud. Unless help is provided rapidly, such situations often result in tragedy.

Before rescue hovercraft were introduced into the fleet in 2002, the only method of rapid access to areas like mudflats and quicksand was by helicopter. And surface access was limited to walking, using mud mats and crawling boards.

The versatility and speed of the RNLI rescue hovercraft has made a huge difference to the efficiency and effectiveness of our search and rescue service, enabling us to save even more lives around the coast.

E Class Lifeboats

The E class inshore lifeboat is the fastest in the RNLI fleet and was specially designed for London’s busy River Thames.

Tower crew onboard their E class lifeboat, Hurley Burley E-07, on the River Thames. Photo: Nathan Williams

With its powerful tidal currents, submerged debris and heavy traffic, the River Thames can be incredibly dangerous for those on and by the water and the E class lifeboat was designed to handle these river conditions.

Stationed at our two busiest lifeboat stations, Tower and Chiswick, the first generation of E class lifeboats the Mk1 was introduced into the fleet in 2002 and the second generation the Mk2 in 2012.

Speed is of the utmost importance on the River Thames in London. Many emergencies involve people in the water, at the mercy of the river’s cold temperatures, fast-flowing currents and busy traffic.

The latest Mk2 E class lifeboat is capable of a top speed of 40 knots, making her the fastest lifeboat in the RNLI fleet. 

E class lifeboats lie afloat at our Tower and Chiswick Lifeboat Stations, ready for the quickest launch possible, and can operate in both daylight and darkness.

And once at the scene, crew can pull casualties out of the water quickly from the working platform at the stern.

The Mk2 E class lifeboat was designed by RNLI engineers in conjunction with Liverpool-based expert RIB builder Marine Specialist Technology Ltd. Lifeboat crews were consulted throughout the project, giving their views on how the Mk1 E class could be improved.

Arancia Class Rescue Boat

The Arancia class inshore rescue boats (IRBs) are primarily used by RNLI lifeguards so that they can reach casualties in the surf, fast.

Arancia class inshore rescue boat A-76 is launched for a demonstration following the boats naming ceremony. Photo: Martin Fish

The Arancia Inshore Rescue Craft, originates from New Zealand where it is made by Arancia Industries Ltd.

It can be launched quickly and can power through the surf at a top speed of 26 knots.

It is launched and recovered from a trolley or trailer. The trolley can be pulled into the surf by hand, saving vital seconds. She can also be towed to a suitable launching site using an all-terrain vehicle or patrol vehicle.

Inshore rescue boats are ideal for rescues in the surf, close to shore, rocks and cliffs and even inside caves.

The boat is light enough for two people to launch but sturdy enough for use in heavy surf conditions as well.

It copes well with the shallow waters of estuaries and complements the conventional lifeboats at our lifeboat stations.

The craft is made from hypalon-coated fabric, an extremely durable synthetic rubber. The fabric is tensioned by a separate keelson tube fitted under removable floorboards. This forms a shallow V section that allows the inshore rescue boat to maintain speed and manoeuvrability through a wide range of difficult conditions.

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