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Who decides what lifeboats and equipment are needed and how are they produced?
Read on to find out how specialist RNLI staff decide upon, design, build and support these vital lifesaving tools.
The need for a new lifeboat or equipment is identified by the RNLI Operations Department through an ongoing series of coastal reviews. These reviews can highlight needs for additional coverage, extra speed or other capability. These needs are then discussed with the RNLI Engineering and Supply Department and, if viable, an operational requirement is created.
The operational requirement outlines the basic needs for the equipment. For a new lifeboat this would include how fast it must be, how far it must go, how it will be launched and recovered; and any boathouse limitations.
Once the departments have established what the equipment has to do and agreed an outline schedule and costs, a project team is set up to design the lifeboat/equipment. The team is largely made up of RNLI engineering staff but also includes operational staff and representatives from around the coast. Various crew members are also involved as their feedback is vital in delivering successful equipment.
How the team develops this equipment depends on how innovative it needs to be. Sometimes it is possible to buy equipment off the shelf but many items will be unique to the RNLI and need to be designed from scratch.
The RNLI project team works with a variety of contractors and research establishments to develop and test concept proposals. This includes background research, mathematical modelling and physical model testing.
Once the concept has been evaluated it is refined and the design is developed into a workable proposal. The project team works with contractors to build a prototype and lifeboat crews are involved in initial tests and trials. Safety assessments are continually carried out at all stages to ensure that all equipment is safe to use.
The prototype trials provide a vast amount of information that the project team uses to further refine the design. A preproduction version is built and final trials are carried out. The team works closely with contractors to identify the best and most cost-effective way to build the equipment.
The project team continually addresses training and maintenance support throughout the project but it is only in the later stages that they come to fruition. Training requirements are defined, trainers are trained, production equipment is delivered and spares and maintenance support is put in place.
Our lifeboat crews launch 24 times a day on average. Find out which station has launched near you around the UK and Republic of Ireland. View shouts.
The RNLI is an independent charity, funded by voluntary donations. We could not save lives at sea without your support.
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