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RNLI Lifeboat Fleet​

Clifden RNLI Lifeboats on an exercise with the Irish Naval Service ship LE Orla in the summer of 2016. Photo Credit: RNLI/Phil Dicker

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 34 all-weather lifeboats and 42 inshore lifeboats in the relief fleet, ready to temporarily replace station lifeboats whenever they require regular or emergency maintenance. The relief fleet is on standby in strategic points around the UK and Ireland, and is kept in a constant state of operational readiness to provide cover at any of the RNLI's 238 lifeboat stations. 


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.

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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.

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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.

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Tamar Class Lifeboat

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.

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Shannon Class Lifeboat

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, Mersey and Trent class lifeboats.

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Inshore Lifeboats (ILB)

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. Currently the Atlantic 85 and D Class serve Irish Lifeboat stations.

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

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. The Arancia Inshore Rescue Craft, originates from New Zealand where it is made by Arancia Industries Ltd. None are currently based at Irish stations.

Baltimore inshore lifeboat, Rita Daphne Smyth takes to the water after naming ceremony. Photo Credit: RNLI/Nicholas Leach

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.

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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.

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

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. 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. No E-class serve at Irish stations.

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

H Class Rescue Hovercraft

RNLI inshore rescue hovercraft can reach areas inaccessible to conventional lifeboats, extending our lifesaving capability around the coast. Currently none of the H-class serve at Irish stations.

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Rescue Water Craft (RWC), Daughter Boats (X, XP, Y) & Boarding Boats (BB)

Primarily used by RNLI lifeguards, the Rescue Water Craft (RWC) is a jet ski operated and equipped for search and rescue. Daughter Boats are small inflatable lifeboats kept onboard some All-weather lifeboat classes, used to access areas the ALB cannot reach. Boarding Boats (BB) are generally used to access the All-Weather lifeboat moored off-shore.

RWC jet ski at Carrybridge lifeboat station. Photo Credit: Pat Nolan

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.

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Boarding Boat at Rosslare Harbour. Photo Credit: Barry Moule

Boarding Boats (BB)

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

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XP34 on a training exercise at Arklow lifboat station. Photo Credit: Pat Nolan

Daughter Boats (X, XP & Y Lifeboats)

Daughter boats are usually found onboard some of the All-weather lifeboat classesand are used to access areas the ALB cannot reach. The X class is unpowered while the XP and Y classes carry a small outboard engine usually capable of 6 knots.

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RNLI Support Vehicles

The RNLI use a fleet of 1,050 vehicles – made up of 650 cars, vans, 4x4s and HGVs, which are used for a range of job roles such as fundraisers and system technicians, and 400 specialist vehicles including agricultural tractors and bespoke equipment, used to launch and recover lifeboats, and quadbikes, which are used to patrol lifeguarded beaches.

Rhyl RNLI’s Mersey class lifeboat, Lil Cunningham 12-24, being launched by her launch and recovery tractor. Photo: Nathan Williams

RNLI Launch & Recovery Equipment

The RNLI operates a fleet of specialised vehicles used in the launch and recovery of lifeboats over all kinds of beach terrain, from steep shelving shingle to wet, sticky sand.

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Retired Lifeboat Classes

Waveney class ON 1006 "Connel Elizabeth Cargill" pictured during the Arklow Maritime Festival in August 1987. Photo Tom Nolan

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.

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The final Tyne class lifeboat in service, Wicklow lifeboat 47-035 Annie Blaker stood down from service on April 7th 2019. Photo Credit: Tommy Dover

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.

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Atlantic 21 class B-582 Ernest Armstrong. Photo Credit: Albert Bridge

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.

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B-791 Gladys Winifred Tiffney served as Helensburgh lifeboat from 2003 to 2017. Photo Credit: Andy Farrington

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. All Atlantic 75 class lifeboats have retired for RNLI service with the last one standing down from service in December 2021.

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