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International work

Tackling the international drowning epidemic

Drowning claims an estimated 400,000 lives around the world each year, over half of which are children. This is a conservative estimate – the actual number is likely to be much higher. A staggering 96% of these drownings happen in low- and middle-income countries. Despite the scale of the problem, it is barely recognised – a hidden epidemic.

We are expanding our international work, providing others with the knowledge, equipment and skills to try to reduce this staggering loss of life.

How we’re helping

We know drowning is preventable. A large proportion of global drownings each year occur in coastal locations, in floods, in rivers or in other large bodies of water – areas in which we have expertise in saving lives and can offer help.

We’re not setting up RNLI services overseas, but we’re giving others the means to help themselves by providing a range of services to other lifesaving and drowning prevention organisations. In each case, we assess their current capabilities and needs, to decide how best we can help. This help might take the form of bespoke training, programme development or strategic guidance and advice.



Contact us


The RNLI has nearly 200 years of experience in delivering a world-class maritime search and rescue service for the UK and Ireland. Our service constantly evolves to stay in line with an ever-changing maritime environment that spans everything from leisure users on the beach and sea to commercial shipping.

Today, the RNLI saves lives at sea in four ways: lifeboating, lifeguarding, safety advice and flood rescue. Combined, they provide one of the most effective maritime rescue services in the world.

As part of our growing international development work, we are offering consultancy services to new, developing and established lifesaving and search and rescue organisations.

Find out more about how the RNLI could help you develop or improve your lifesaving organisation.​

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Training – in the UK and in your country

Image showing capsize training. Credit: Nathan WilliamsWe deliver the highest standards of training to search and rescue personnel both in the UK and around the world. Some of our most recent clients include the search and rescue organisations of China, Iceland and Portugal.

Training can be delivered by our experienced staff at our specialist training centre, RNLI College, or at any other suitable location. The fully residential RNLI College is based on the south coast of England.


Our facilities include training rooms, fire and full mission bridge simulators (lifeboat and commercial vessel), live engine workshops, survival centre with 25m wave tank (special effects include blackout capability, storm simulation and helicopter recovery), and a variety of search and rescue training vessels.

Our expertise is derived from a combination of RNLI experience and the use of cutting-edge technology and training techniques.



All our training services can be tailored and quoted to suit your specific needs and may include:

  • navigation

  • leadership and teambuilding

  • boathandling

  • rough weather handling

  • flood rescue

  • casualty care

  • sea survival


  • capsize

  • engine and electrical

  • hovercraft

  • lifeguarding.

Read more about lifeboat training.

Experienced RNLI staff can also deliver training and assessment to search and rescue and lifesaving teams in their own countries. Training materials are provided.

Equipment – procurement and evaluation

Image of a Tamar under constructionWe have an active fleet of over 340 lifeboats, ranging from 3.8–17m in length, as well as a relief fleet. There are also four active and three relief hovercraft.

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

Image showing former RNLI lifeboats on service in ChinaOur lifeboats are built and maintained to the highest standards. Many of our former lifeboats have been sold at competitive prices to other search and rescue organisations in countries including Australia, Chile, China, Iceland, Portugal, South Africa and Uruguay, to carry on their intended purpose of saving lives at sea. For a list of former RNLI lifeboats for sale, please contact us.

We construct many of our own lifeboats and in the past have built boats for other rescue services. Please contact us if you would like further information.

Consultancy – from operational strategy to governance

NewZealandConsultancy220.jpgWorking with a complicated and varied coastline, running 236 lifeboat stations and more than 180 lifeguard units, and constantly monitoring and improving performance has given the RNLI a vast depth of experience and skills. We can work with you, sharing our experience, to help define and improve your maritime search and rescue strategy


Flood response – strategy and development

FRTGuyana220.jpgThe RNLI has built up considerable experience of rapid response to inland flooding both in the UK and abroad.

This is a completely different environment from the sea, and it needs a very different set of skills. We have teams specially trained in swift-water rescue, and practical experience in both preparation and operational flood rescue activity.

To find out how we can help you develop your flood response plans and capabilities, please contact us.


Conferences and teambuilding

RNLI college

RNLI College is a unique harbourside location for conferences, training and teambuilding.

All profits made at RNLI College help save lives at sea. 

  • Bangladesh Candidates participating in RNLI Lifeguard training in Bangladesh Lifeguard training in Bangladesh
  • Bangladesh RNLI Lifeguard providing vital lifesaving training in Bangladesh An RNLI Lifeguard giving training in Bangladesh
  • UK RNLI are advising the Bangladeshi Coastguard on developing Search and Rescue training Bangladeshi Coastguard representatives visit RNLI College in Dorset. We are advising the Bangladeshi Coastguard on developing search and rescue training.
  • Brazil RNLI providing strategic support to help set up Brazil's first sea rescue service              We are helping set up Brazil's first sea rescue service: Sea Angels.
  • China Former RNLI lifeboats sold to China for search and rescue                       Former RNLI lifeboats sold to China for search and rescue
  • Kenya RNLI lifeguards providing vital lifesaving training in Kenya RNLI lifeguards giving training in Kenya
  • St Lucia RNLI providing consultancy to the St Lucia government on coastal safety RNLI providing consultancy to the St Lucia Government on coastal safety
  • Uruguay Former RNLI Tyne class lifeboat sold to Uruguay ADES A former RNLI Tyne class lifeboat, sold to Uruguayan search and rescue organisation ADES
  • Portuguese visitors to the RNLI College Members of the Portuguese coastguard and Maritime Police visit the RNLI College in Dorset to attend the inshore lifeboat training course Members of the Portuguese coastguard and Maritime Police visit the RNLI College in Dorset to attend the inshore lifeboat training course
  • Future Leaders in Lifesaving Course a Candidates taking part in a training exercise
  • Future Leaders in Lifesaving Course a Candidates taking part in a training exercise
  • Future Leaders in Lifesaving Course a Candidates taking part in a training exercise
  • Bangladesh a RNLI Lifeboat Trainer providing training to Bangladesh Coast Guard
  • Bangladesh a Former RNLI trained Bangladeshi Lifeguards, providing training to new recruits
  • British Virgin Islands RNLI Lifeboat trainers delivering training to Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR) crew members. RNLI Lifeboat trainers delivering training to Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR) crew members.
  • Senegal a RNLI Lifeguards providing training in Senegal
  • Senegal International Lifeguard training in Senegal

Lifeguard training in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has one of the highest drowning rates in the world. Drowning claims the lives of around 18,000 Bangladeshi children each year, making it more deadly than infectious disease or malnutrition. 

But hundreds of lives could be saved every year in Bangladesh now the country’s first ever lifesaving club has been set up with the help of the RNLI.

March 2012

Experienced RNLI Lifeguard Trainers Darren Williams and Scott Davidson spent 2 weeks delivering a comprehensive lifeguard training programme to 15 Bangladeshi volunteers, including the first female lifeguard in Bangladesh.

They covered the essentials of lifeguard training, including:

  • beach surveillance

  • risk assessments

  • recognising when someone is in distress

  • understanding rescue equipment

  • reaching, rescuing, assessing and treating a casualty.

They also delivered a Train the Trainer course, so that the volunteers could teach the skills they had learned to others, enabling them to keep sharing their skills long after the trainers had returned home.

Lifeguard training is not only saving but changing lives

Within days of completing their training, the Bangladeshi lifeguard volunteers saved their first life. Just a few days of training is already saving lives and will continue to do so for years to come, thanks to the effective partnership of RNLI experts with dedicated local volunteers.

October 2012

Darren and Scott returned to Bangladesh to oversee the delivery of training to 45 more lifeguards. The local lifeguards trained back in March led the sessions, supported by Darren and Scott, using a training manual developed by the RNLI specifically for use in countries where specialist equipment and facilities are not available.

They also taught the lifeguards how to deliver water safety education talks in schools. If the newly-trained lifeguards can give vital advice to thousands of school children, we hope hundreds more lives could be saved each year.

October 2013

Darren and Scott, re-visited the beach lifesaving club they have helped to set up in the Cox’s Bazar area over the past 2 years. This time, the trainers monitored the Bangladeshi lifeguards running their lifesaving club and training courses, stepping in to offer advice and further training where required. They spent time instructing the Bangladeshi lifeguards on how to run water safety education programmes in school, and helping them develop the content for those sessions.