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

Developed in the early 1990s, the Severn class was introduced into the fleet in 1995 and is designed to lie afloat, either at deep-water moorings or at a berth.

Key features

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

The Severn has a sheerline that sweeps down for ease of survivor recovery. She is inherently self-righting and should it be knocked over in extreme weather, it will automatically right itself within a few seconds.

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

In addition to her twin engines, the Severn is fitted with a hydraulic-powered bow thruster for improved manoeuvrability.

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

The Severn carries a small Y boat, which is an inflatable daughter boat complete with a 15hp outboard engine. This small craft can be launched with a crane and is used in moderate conditions to access areas where the lifeboat cannot reach.

Comprehensive first aid equipment includes stretchers, oxygen and Entonox.

Other equipment includes a portable salvage pump carried in a watertight container.

The last Severn class lifeboat was built in 2004. The lifeboats undergo a regular condition-based maintenance regime to check their condition. 

​ ​

Date introduced:


Launch type:


Number in fleet:

35 at stations plus 9 in the relief fleet​

Last built:











42 tonnes​

Max speed:

25 knots​

Fuel capacity:

5,600 litres​


250 nautical miles​


Hull: fibre-reinforced composite with single-skin section below the chine and 100mm thick foam-cored

sandwich above;

Deck and superstructure: 25mm foam-cored sandwich​


2 x Caterpillar 3412 TA marine diesel; 1,250hp each at 2,300rpm​

Survivor capacity:

Self-righting – 28

Non self-righting – 124

Image of Newhaven’s Severn class lifeboat escorting yacht in stormy seas. Photo: Eddie Mitchell

Busy Saturday

Tynemouth lifeboat crew rescued 18 people on one busy Saturday, 26 March 2011. First, three trawlermen needed a tow home to Blyth after their vessel suffered an engine fire.

Both Tynemouth lifeboats, along with RNLI colleagues from Cullercoats and Sunderland, spent 3 hours in the afternoon searching for a vessel in distress, which turned out to be a false alarm.

Then the all-weather lifeboat was called out for another tow due to mechanical failure, this time of the 21m sail training yacht James Cook, with 15 school-age trainees aboard.

Belgian chef rescue

The Belgian Navy called on Harwich RNLI on 5 July 2011 when a chef on the Belgica (pictured) cut his hands and needed to go to hospital. The all-weather Severn class lifeboat Albert Brown picked up the casualty – and a translator – 14 miles out to sea and took them ashore to a waiting ambulance.

Both Harwich lifeboats were called out on 2 June after three children and an adult were reported cut off by the tide in Dovercourt Bay. The Atlantic 75 Sure & Steadfast found the four by Earlham’s beach on the wrong side of the creek. A crew member swam ashore to check on the children before the small Y boat from the Severn class was used to ferry them across the creek.

Tall ship collision

Rosslare RNLI lifeboat was launched in the early hours of 29 June to go to the aid of a yacht that was badly damaged.

The yacht had collided with a three-masted 30m Norwegian tall ship, 10 miles south east of Rosslare Harbour. The all-weather lifeboat launched at 2.38am and was on scene at 3.32am. Reports had been received from Dublin Coast Guard that the yacht needed urgent assistance and was taking on water.

Arriving on scene, the volunteer lifeboat crew saw debris in the water and noticed a considerable amount of damage to the yacht on the port side. They immediately checked that the crew on both vessels had no injuries, 15 onboard the tall ship and a single crew member onboard the yacht.

Three lifeboat crew then boarded the yacht and cleared some of the debris from the water. The Irish Coast Guard helicopter from Waterford arrived on scene and provided a strong searchlight overhead for the crews to work in.

Due to the damage to the yacht (pictured) and the danger that it might sink, the lifeboat crew towed it back to Rosslare Harbour and the tall ship made its way on to Waterford.

Rosslare Deputy Launching Authority Dave Maloney said: ‘While there was damage to one of the vessels, thankfully there was no serious injury to any person.’ He added that the priority for the lifeboat crews was to ensure that there was no danger to anyone and that the vessel was taken back to shore as quickly as possible due to the possible danger to shipping.

Humber-dinger of a week

Until mid July, Humber RNLI station had an uneventful year – then there were six launches in a week!

The last was at dawn on 15 July when the accommodation area of a local fixed gas rig, with 25 people on it, had started to fill with smoke. Heading towards the rig at full speed, the crew heard that the cause was an electrical fault and had been made safe.

Two days earlier, Pride of the Humber had launched to another gas rig, 59 miles east of Spurn Point, after a supply vessel collided with it. Although the rig was undamaged, the vessel had a split in its side above the waterline and limped back to port.

Earlier in the week two yachts were assisted, one with a fouled propeller and one stranded 30 miles east of Spurn Point, unable to start its engine in a busy shipping lane.

Another call out had involved towing a charter boat, with six people onboard, to Grimsby after a fire disabled its engine.

The most serious of the launches was on 14 July when a Humber pilot was taken ill onboard the vessel he was piloting into the River Humber. He was airlifted to hospital.

Coxswain and crew honoured

The Coxswain and crew who saved six people were honoured at Scotland’s RNLI Annual Awards ceremony in Perth.

In a shout that lasted over 11 hours, the men battled through 50-knot winds to stop the Red Duchess, a coaster carrying coal, from going aground on the island of Rum, after the vessel suffered engine failure.

Mallaig’s all-weather lifeboat Henry Alston Hewat was launched in a gale on 2 November 2010.

At one point the coaster was just 1½ miles away from crashing onto the island and creating an environmental disaster.

But the 45-tonne lifeboat, with a crew aged 20–51 years old, saved the 2,500-tonne (including cargo) coaster from going aground. Later the Coastguard’s emergency vessel Anglian Prince arrived and towed the coaster to Rum.

The RNLI presented Coxswain Michael Ian Currie with a Framed Letter of Thanks from the RNLI’s Chairman. Crew Members Hugh Cameron, Kevin MacDonell, Stuart Griffin, Angus McLean and Cameron Sangan were each given a Letter of Appreciation from the RNLI’s Chief Executive.

  • Barra Image of Barra’s Severn class lifeboat. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Stornoway Image of Stornoway’s Severn class lifeboat. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Torbay Image of Torbay’s Severn class lifeboat. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Valentia Image of Valentia’s Severn class lifeboat on her mooring. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Stornoway Image of Stornoway crew member helping to launch Y boat from Severn class lifeboat. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Torbay Image of Torbay crew launching Y boat from a crane on the Severn class lifeboat. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Torbay Image of Torbay’s Severn class lifeboat in rough seas. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Newhaven Image of Newhaven’s Severn class lifeboat escorting yacht in stormy seas. Photo: Eddie Mitchell
  • Barrow Image of Barrow Tamar class lifeboat launching from slipway. Photo: Nicholas Leach
  • Transfer to a casualty yacht Image of crew member being transferred to a casualty yacht from their Severn class lifeboat. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard