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E class

RNLI lifeboats can be divided into two categories: inshore and all-weather. The E class lifeboat is one of three classes of inshore lifeboat (ILB) – the B, D and E classes. The E class is the fastest lifeboat in the RNLI’s fleet and is on service at only two lifeboat stations on the River Thames – Tower and Chiswick, which are consistently among the busiest in the RNLI.

The E class has been specially designed to meet the demands of the River Thames. With its fast-running tide, powerful debris and heavy traffic, the River Thames is surprisingly hostile for those on and by the water.

The E class is kept afloat for quick response and all E classes are now on the Thames.

In 2010, E class lifeboats launched 720 times and rescued 222 people, saving 25 lives. 

Key features

  • Systems and information Management system
  • Self righting
  • Righting and restarting
  • Navigation and communication

Mk1 E class​

Introduced in 2002, the E class inshore lifeboat is the fastest lifeboat in the fleet and is used solely on the River Thames.

Operating in both daylight and darkness, it is a fast response craft, developed for use with waterjets that give it excellent manoeuvrability in the rapidly moving river flow.

The E class features a working platform at the stern that makes it easier to recover survivors from the water.

In the unlikely event of a capsize, she can be righted by a manually activated system using a bag on top of the roll bar – similar to the B class.

The equipment includes radar, GPS with electronic chart, VHF radio, police radio, blue lights, siren and night-vision equipment.

Towed inflatable rescue craft are also strategically positioned along the river and can be attached to the E class to accommodate a further 60 survivors whenever necessary.

Mk2 E class

The next generation of E class lifeboat can now be seen on the Thames. Hurley Burly is the first of three new E class lifeboats to be shared by Tower and Chiswick Lifeboat Stations. Two more are due to join our fleet in the Winter.

The new lifeboats will comfortably reach top speeds of 40 knots, making them the fastest in the RNLI fleet. They are designed for improved crew comfort, safety and ergonomics, for example the front seats are adaptable for crew members of differing heights. Modifications have also been made to improve endurance and reliability for heavy use.

Hurley Burly and her sisters were designed by the RNLI’s own 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 original E class could be improved.

Waterjet-powered E class lifeboats are unique to Tower and Chiswick, where the types of casualty and river conditions mean speed is of the utmost importance. Tower Lifeboat Station was the RNLI’s busiest last year, launching 491 times. Chiswick lifeboats launched 229 times.

​Mk1

​Mk2

Date introduced:

​2002

​2011

Launch type:

​Afloat

​Afloat

Number in fleet:

​6

​3 initially

Crew:

​3

​4

Length:

​9m

​10.5m

Beam/width:

​2.94m

​2.9m (without collars); 3.5m (with collars)

Draught/depth:

​0.67m

​0.7m

Displacement:

​3.86 tonnes

E-07 – 5.9 tonnes;

E-08 and E-09 – target 5.4 tonnes​

Max speed:

​33 knots

​40 knots

Fuel capacity:

​520 litres

​500 litres

Range/endurance:

​4 hours at full speed

​3 hours at full speed

Construction:

Marine-grade aluminium alloy with a closed-cell polythene foam collar​

Hull: Glass epoxy-resin composite

Collar: Solid closed-cell foam with polyurethane (PU) covering

Engines:

2 x Steyr 246 marine diesel; 240hp each at 4,100rpm​

2 x Volvo D6 435 marine diesel – 435hp each

3,300rpm at 40 knots​

Survivor capacity:

​20

​20 including one stretcher-borne

Image of Chiswick E class in action. Photo: Picasa 2.0

Barge disaster averted

Chiswick lifeboat crew were on exercise on 22 March 2011 when they were tasked to a barge drifting beam on towards Hammersmith Bridge. The barge’s engine had stalled and would not restart, and she couldn’t deploy her anchor. The lifeboat took the barge, which at 36 tonnes was nearly 10 times the lifeboat’s weight, under tow to her mooring.

Chiswick Station Manager Wayne Bellamy says: ‘The barge was floating towards Putney with many rowers and other river users out on the water on a fine day. If the lifeboat had not halted her progress speedily, the incident could have become grave.’ 

Image of E class lifeboats alongside Tower Lifeboat Station. Photo: RNLI/Tony Roddam

London:  Tower and Chiswick

As at beginning of October, there were six E class Mk1 lifeboats shared between the two lifeboat stations.

The next generation of E class lifeboat Mk2 can now be seen on the Thames. Hurley Burly is the first of three new E class lifeboats to be shared by Tower and Chiswick Lifeboat Stations. Two more are due to join our fleet in the Winter. 

  • London Eye Image of E class alongside the London Eye. Photo: Alex Maunders
  • Tower Image of Tower E class lifeboat. Photo: Carl Shofield
  • Chiswick e class lifeboat
  • Tower at night Image of Tower E class lifeboat on exercise at night. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Inner city Image of Inner city E class lifeboat with Tower lifeboat crew. Photo: Jane Airey
  • E class Image of E class lifeboat crew in action.
  • Tower Image of Tower E class crew in action. Photo: James Reid
  • Moored at station Image of E class moored at station. Photo: Alex Maunders
  • Chiswick stern Image of Chiswick E class stern. Photo: Picasa 2.0
  • E class Image of E class in action. Photo: Jane Airey
  • Lifeboat pier Image of E class lifeboats alongside Tower Lifeboat Station. Photo: RNLI/Tony Roddam
  • Bow in snow Image of E class bow in snow (all weathers). Photo: Alex Maunders
  • Chiswick Image of Chiswick E class in action. Photo: Picasa 2.0