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There are currently six classes of all-weather lifeboat in the RNLI fleet: Shannon; Tamar; Severn; Trent; Tyne; and Mersey.

The Mersey class was the first 'fast' carriage lifeboat. Introduced in 1988, she can be launched from a slipway or lie afloat.

Key features

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

Image of Lytham St Annes Mersey class lifeboat on her carriage with launching vehicle. Photo: Martin FishThe 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 wheelhouse is set well aft and the sheerline is flattened towards the bow.

The propellers and rudders lie in partial tunnels set into the hull that, along with the main and two bilge keels, provide excellent protection from damage in shallow water or slipway operations.

The mast and aerials can be collapsed to fit into a boathouse.

The Mersey can carry an X boat, a small unpowered and manually launched inflatable daughter boat for the crew to access areas where the lifeboat cannot reach.

The comprehensive electronics include VHF and MF radios with DSC functionality, VHF direction finder, DGPS with electronic chart system and radar.

Comprehensive first aid equipment includes stretchers, oxygen and Entonox. Other equipment carried includes a portable salvage pump.

The last Mersey was built in 1993 and the class will be gradually replaced by the new fast carriage boat 2 (FCB2), the Shannon class.

Image of Dungeness Mersey class lifeboat being recovered into boathouse. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

Date introduced:


Launch type:

Carriage, slipway or afloat​

Number in fleet:

31 at station plus 6 in relief fleet​

Last built:












​14.3 tonnes

Max speed:

​17 knots

Fuel capacity:

​1,110 litres


​240 nautical miles


​Aluminium or fibre-reinforced composite


​2 x Caterpillar 3208T marine diesel; 280hp each at 2,800rpm

Survivor capacity:

Self-righting - 21

Non self-righting - 43


Image of Clogher Head Mersey class lifeboat rescuing kayakers. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard.

​Kayaker pulled from water

A kayaker, lost and tired off the coast of north-east Wales, was rescued by Rhyl RNLI’s Mersey class all-weather lifeboat on 22 July after spending hours at sea in just a T-shirt and shorts.

The man had paddled to the Rhyl Flats Wind Farm, but the return journey proved difficult against the tide and he soon felt cold and tired, capsizing his craft once.

His friend on shore confirmed, by mobile phone, that the man was in trouble and Holyhead Coastguard paged the lifeboat, which found the kayaker (pictured being rescued) some 3.5 miles off Pensarn.

He was showing signs of being very cold but, after being given casualty care, soon recovered. He was met at Rhyl by ambulance paramedics.

Rhyl Coxswain Martin Jones said: ‘The man was very lucky to survive for over 5 hours at sea in just a T-shirt and shorts. He was not equipped with a lifejacket, flares, or a proper VHF radio and was given safety advice.’

Pulled to safety

The St Ives volunteer lifeboat crew worked with RNLI lifeguards at Gwithian on 13 June after an 8m yacht was in danger of going aground on rocks off the beach.

The all-weather relief Mersey class lifeboat Peggy and Alex Caird arrived at the vessel and they found the yacht anchored but in danger of going aground, with water breaking over the boat. It had also sustained damage to its front hatch while sailing. The yacht was towed back across the bay to St Ives.

Two call outs in quick succession

A 'Pan Pan' Call to Portland Coastguard on 15 August 2011 prompted the launch of the Swanage all-weather Mersey class lifeboat to a position just short of 3 nautical miles south of Anvil Point to assist the Dutch trimaran Kikuyu whose rudder had snapped off at the waterline, leaving her without any means of steering and therefore drifting helplessly.

After confirming Kikuyu’s position with the skipper, as there were several possible targets on radar, the lifeboat arrived on scene. Two crew members were put aboard to help secure the tow and to deploy a drogue from the casualty’s stern to steady her course. Kikuyu was under tow at 5.24pm and brought back to Swanage Bay to be secured to the lifeboat mooring.

At about 6.04pm the crew members were recovered from the casualty and the lifeboat began rehousing.

Just as the crew were leaving the boathouse, the pager system was again activated by Portland Coastguard. The all-weather lifeboat was needed again to assist a 12m motorboat 10 nautical miles south west of Anvil Point. Both the vessel's engines had failed and the single-handed skipper was drifting with the strong flood tide. The lifeboat quickly launched at 6.50pm and was alongside the casualty just over 40 minutes later.

Two crew members were put aboard to assist in securing the tow and to see if anything could be done with the defective engines. The tow was secured and good speed was made back to Swanage.

Unfortunately nothing could be done with the engines so it meant that the boat would have to be towed back to Poole as there was already a boat on the lifeboat mooring.

After some discussion it was requested that Poole Tyne class lifeboat be launched to take over the tow. Poole lifeboat launched and one crew member was transferred aboard, and transferred the tow halfway down the Swash Channel. Swanage lifeboat was then released to return to station while Poole lifeboat towed the vessel back into Salterns Marina. Poole crew then returned to station by 2200.

  • Ilfracombe Image of Ilfracombe Mersey class and lifeboat crew working with RAF helicopter. Photo: John Bointon
  • Wells Image of Wells Mersey class lifeboat and carriage on beach. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Ramsey Image of Ramsey Mersey class lifeboat at night. Photo: Malcolm MacDonald
  • Margate Image of recovery of Margate’s Mersey class lifeboat. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Aldeburgh Image of recovery of Aldeburgh’s Mersey class lifeboat. Photo: Ian Cummings
  • Clogher Head Image of Clogher Head Mersey class lifeboat rescuing kayakers. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard.
  • Mersey class lifeboat Image of washing Mersey class lifeboat on return from a call out. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Dungeness Image of Dungeness Mersey class lifeboat being recovered into boathouse. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Dungeness boathouse Image of Dungeness Mersey class lifeboat in boathouse. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Dungeness recovery Image of Dungeness Mersey class being recovered across the shingle beach. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Mersey class lifeboat near wind farm Image of Margate’s Mersey class lifeboat working near a wind farm. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard