Changing the future of sea rescue
Thanks to you we now have a brand new class of all-weather lifeboat. One that will revolutionise the way we save lives at sea. You helped us reach our target of £5M to fund two Shannon class all-weather lifeboats with launch and recovery vehicles.The Shannon is the first modern RNLI all-weather lifeboat to be powered by waterjets instead of propellers. This makes it faster and more manoeuvrable when reaching casualties. Following months of trials, our first Shannon class lifeboat has now officially joined our fleet. Named Jock and Annie Slater, she is now part of our relief fleet and as such, will see service all around the UK and Republic of Ireland during her expected 50-year operational life.The first station to receive a Shannon will be Dungeness in early 2014. And it'll be the first class of lifeboat to be built in-house at our new All-weather Lifeboat Centre in Poole, Dorset.
Hear from an RNLI legend
12 November 2013
Come along to our annual lecture at the University of Southampton and hear from RNLI legend, former Operations Director Michael Vlasto OBE FRIN FNI.
Save the date
Trials update: November 2013
There's just a few more trials for our first Shannon class lifeboat, Jock and Annie Slater, before she's placed on operational service as part of our relief fleet.
Find out what she's up to now?
See the Shannon take one of her final tests
23 August 2013
Our video captures the moment our first Shannon class lifeboat, Jock and Annie Slater, took one of her final tests – the live capsize. How did she do? Watch and find out!
Watch live capsize
Jock and Annie Slater goes on tour
17 July 2013
Volunteer crews have been test driving our most advanced class of lifeboat to date as the first Shannon of the fleet visits east England and Scotland. Jock and Annie Slater began her journey following her naming ceremony in Poole, Dorset, on 11 July.
A very special naming ceremony
15 July 2013
Marking an eagerly-awaited milestone for staff, volunteers and supporters alike, the first of our revolutionary Shannon class all-weather lifeboats was officially welcomed into our fleet at a very special naming ceremony.
Trials update: July 2013
We're pleased to say that RNLI Operations formally accepted the Shannon on 3 July, meaning the Shannon class is now officially part of the RNLI lifeboat fleet. Next up is the naming ceremony of the very first Shannon lifeboat, followed by more station visits and the live self-right test.
Trials update: May 2013
In mid-May the Shannon prototype went back into Berthon Boatyard in Lymington, Hampshire, for the first of her two operational update periods. Any design changes made since she was launched are fully incorporated during this time.
Five more Shannon stations announced
08 May 2013
Crews at five more of our lifeboat stations are very excited at the prospect of receiving a new Shannon class lifeboat when their current all-weather lifeboats reach the end of their planned 25-year life span.
Trials update: April 2013
The Shannon prototype is currently sailing around the Irish Sea, along the coasts of Wales and Northern England. The rough weather launch and recovery trials will soon be taking place at Hayle in Cornwall. This should be her final major test.
Trials update: December 2012
The Shannon prototype has been back in the boatyard for modifications, including replacing the helm's mouse pad with a roller ball, increasing the size of the bow strop ratchet to give better tension, and removing the engines to change the sumps, due to small oil leaks.
Trials update: September 2012
A variety of coatings have been applied in four separate patches on the hull in order to test their resistance to abrasion and damage during launch and recovery.
Video 1 of 9: 21 August 2013 – See Jock and Annie Slater take one of her final tests before she's placed on operational service. The live capsize is her most realistic self-right test so far.
Video 2 of 9: 11 July 2013 – You've followed her incredible journey. Now watch as our first Shannon class lifeboat, Jock and Annie Slater, is officially welcomed into our fleet.
Video 3 of 9: 19 September 2012 – A Shannon is split in two to be fit out. See how it's done in our timelapse video.
Video 4 of 9: 15 August 2012 – FCB2 Project Manager Chris Eves gives us a tour of the Shannon prototype. We explore the deck, upper steering position, wheelhouse and down below.
Video 5 of 9: 5 July 2012 – Time-lapse video of the Shannon prototype on trials in Dungeness, Kent.
Video 6 of 9: 29 June 2012 – The Shannon prototype has taken on some pretty big seas during her trials. See how the crew onboard coped with a rough ride.
Video 7 of 9: 25 April 2012 – See the Shannon prototype take on a force 8 gale.
Video 8 of 9: 12 April 2012 – More sea trials for our Shannon prototype. And it's a little choppier off the coast of Portland, Dorset. See our boat tow her big sister, the Tamar class lifeboat (at 32 tonnes, nearly double her weight).
Video 9 of 9: 2 March 2012 – Here's our first footage of the Shannon prototype at sea, having machinery trials in the Solent.
Please note, the location of our first Shannon class lifeboat, Jock and Annie Slater, is only visible when she is at sea or being worked upon. If you're seeing the Meditteranean in the box below, it's likely that our tracking device is switched off and the lifeboat is moored up with no-one aboard. Please try again later.
Disclaimer: Vessel positions may be up to one hour old or incomplete. Data is provided for informational reasons only and is not related by any means to the safety of navigation. All rights reserved. No part of MarineTraffic may be copied, reproduced or retransmitted in any material and form or by any other means, without the prior written permission of the Scientific Head of MarineTraffic project.
Video 1 of 6: 1 February 2013 – We've reached our £5M fundraising target! Here's a thank you message from the team behind the Shannon.
Video 2 of 6: 5 September 2012 – Dungeness Mechanic Trevor Bunney has been trialling the Shannon. He's looking forward to getting one on station, but there's a lot to learn …
Video 3 of 6: 3 July 2012 – Staff Coxswain Lee Firman tells us how the trials are going and what the challenges have been so far.
Video 4 of 6: 3 July 2012 – Lifeboat Trainer Adam Lewis has been getting to grips with the Shannon prototype, ready to pass his knowledge on to the crews.
Video 5 of 6: 3 July 2012 – Launch and Recovery Trainer Mark Perry is impressed with the system we've got for getting the Shannon in and out of the water.
Video 6 of 6: 3 July 2012 – Principal Engineer John Deas gives us a lesson on how to launch and recover 18 tonnes of lifeboat.
From the drawing board to the prototype
We ask more of our lifeboats. Before being passed as fit to join the fleet, a boat must prove that it can travel swiftly and safely in all weathers, that it'll right itself if capsized, and that it's extra durable and cost effective. Where to begin?
The Shannon class all-weather lifeboat was borne from the need to replace our Mersey and Tyne class lifeboats as they approach the end of their operational lives.
Our Operations Team considered what was needed and put together the following Operational Requirements. Our crews need a lifeboat that:
These requirements were handed to our Engineering and Supply Team, and the Shannon's development began …
The replacement for the Mersey class lifeboat was codenamed FCB2 (Fast Carriage Boat 2), reflecting how it would be launched from a carriage. The Mersey had been codenamed FCB3 during its development in the 1980s.
Waterjets would allow the boat to be grounded without too much damage, as well as offering greater manoeuvrability. In 2004, our Engineering Team had a jetboat built, to experiment with and test, with a view to the lifeboat of the future. The experimental boat was an off-the-shelf design, used as a pilot boat in ports all around the UK.
Speed, handling and stability in calm and moderate weather worked well, and we started to think that the experimental boat itself could become FCB2.
Back to the drawing board
But extensive trials showed that the experimental boat's hull was the wrong shape for the extreme conditions we ask our lifeboats to take on.
In rough weather, the boat slammed heavily into the troughs of waves when travelling into prevailing seas. There was also a severe side-to-side rolling motion, giving the ride a 'corkscrew' effect.
Crew safety is paramount, and so in 2007 it was back to the drawing board; taking what we'd learned from the experimental boat and finding a hull shape that would perform in all conditions.
It was thought initially that our in-house naval architects would find a pre-existing design that would be right for FCB2.
But as the team researched the hulls that were out there, as well as those of our previous lifeboats, ideas started flowing and they started to work on their own design.
Considerations:FCB2 needed a fine bow to cut through the water without creating too much spray. A lot of spray would be particularly problematic for a lifeboat, possibly hiding casualties during a search.This narrow bow needed to be counteracted by very wide aft sections, to keep the boat steady and upright at all angles to the sea and improve control down sea.
Severe slamming could be limited by steeper hull sections at amidships (midway between the bow and the stern).
The team designed a hull taking all these considerations into account, and took it through to the model testing stage.
In 2009, six 1/8th-scale models were built and compared in a towing tank, in a manoeuvring basin and in the open sea.
Model 01 was the original experimental boat design. Model 03 was the new RNLI in-house design. The other four hulls tested were commercially available hull forms – from an Irish design commonly used as a pilot boat to the unusually shaped French 'Le Beak' design.
All were good boats, but hull 03 performed best. It scored highly on all the key attributes such as stability and handling, and showed a vast reduction in slamming, in stark contrast to the experimental hull.
It was decided to build a full-size prototype and put her through a year of trials and testing.
The prototype FCB2 was built at the RNLI SAR Composites boatbuilding yard, and fit out at Berthon Boat Company.
The hull and wheelhouse are made of a composite material – glass fibres are woven into a cloth before being infused with epoxy resin in a mould.
The structure is then cooked at 70˚C until a chemical reaction takes place, fusing the parts together to create a strong but light structure. Carbon fibre is used in highly loaded areas.
After being released from the mould, work progressed on the internal structure of the hull, adding strengtheners, ring frames, fuel tanks, engine girders and bulkheads.
This process took more than 12,000 man hours. Efficient manufacturing processes will significantly reduce these hours in future.
The boat was then fit with items and systems including engines, waterjets, electrical looms and the Systems and Information Management System (SIMS). SIMS allows the crew to operate and monitor many of the lifeboat's functions from the safety of their seats.
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So what makes the Shannon our most advanced lifeboat yet?
The shape of a boat's hull is the most important factor in how she'll handle at sea.
During the development of the Shannon class lifeboat, a number of different hull shapes were trialled. The chosen hull gives the smoothest ride through rough seas. And it was designed by our very own naval architects.
The hull, deck and wheelhouse are constructed of composite materials, predominantly epoxy resin film infusion glass sandwich construction.
Hamilton HJ364 waterjets are used to propel the Shannon lifeboat.
It is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to run on waterjets rather than propellers. This allows the vessel to operate in shallow waters and to be intentionally beached.
Waterjets will also give the coxswain greater control when alongside other craft, in confined waters and in all sea conditions. Flat out, this revolutionary craft pumps 1.5 tonnes of water per second from its waterjets.
The jets are capable of absorbing in excess of 700hp, complete with integral hydraulic power pack for operation of steering nozzle and reversing bucket.
The jets are supplied with a full electronic control system incorporating steering, throttle, gearbox and bucket controls, as well as a system to provide full independent backup control of the jets and to monitor the status of all aspects of the system.
The Shannon is fitted with the Systems and Information Management System (SIMS), an RNLI-developed means for the crew to control a lot of the boat's functions from the relative safety of their seats.
SIMS allows the crew to monitor and control radar, radio, charts, cameras, hatches, fire systems, engines, waterjets and bilge systems – all from a single screen at five out of six seats in the wheelhouse. It is a standard piece of software common to all Tamar and, in the future, Shannon class lifeboats. SIMS will always operate in the same way on all lifeboats, and software updates can be sent easily to stations around the coast when available.
The Shannon incorporates a new SIMS using upgraded technology. However, all of the changes will happen behind the scenes so the interface and operation by crew members will be identical to SIMS on the Tamar.
The new distributed SIMS system, developed in conjunction with SciSys UK Ltd, means that hardware is situated close to the equipment it needs to monitor. This has enabled a reduction in the Shannon’s electrical cabling, thereby reducing weight, fit-out cost and time.
Display units are 15-inch liquid crystal thin film transistor display panels with a minimum resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. Each screen has a minimum viewing angle of 120° and supports a full palette of colours for both day and night operations. Screens are of suitable brightness for operation in direct sunlight and fully dimmable for night operation. Local control for each workstation is by means of a large trackball with selection buttons.
Proof of concept trials of the hardware took place onboard the experimental lifeboat in rough conditions and proved its robustness.
The Shannon's aft deck has more space, giving the crew a good platform for performing casualty evacuations with rescue helicopters, and making it easier to set up tows.
The foredeck sea catch restraint and launch mechanism that allows the coxswain to release the boat from the upper steering position was a major area of design.
The vessel is equipped with two anchors of 25kg weight, with one anchor permanently rigged ready for deployment. The vessel is equipped for towing from a fixed tow post. Provision is made for the stowage of two six-man liferafts.
The mast supports a VHF/DF aerial, two VHF aerials and a 1m open array radar scanner. The mast can be lowered or raised within 1 minute by two crew members, and status of the mast position is displayed via the Systems Information Management System (SIMS). A masthead blue flashing light is also fitted.
The air conditioning system incorporates both heating and cooling. Wheelhouse volume is approximately 27.5m³, with a total window surface area of 5.7m2. All windows are coated with Nova NSN 70 Solar film (allows 70% light transmission but cuts heat transmission by 50% as well as blocking most UV and IR).
All instrument and switch illumination in the wheelhouse and at the upper steering position can be dimmed. A 24-volt hot water boiler can boil 2 litres of water within 15 minutes. A curtain is provided behind the Helm and Coxswain seats, so that their night vision is not compromised if the light at the back of the wheelhouse needs to be turned on (for example, for first aid).
Designed in conjunction with Supacat Ltd, the new tractor-borne carriage allows a faster launch and recovery time than the present Mersey system.
Four-track driveThe Shannon launch and recovery equipment uses a software-controlled four-track drive system, allowing it to negotiate beaches with steep gradients and gullies, or travel long distances over flat, saturated sand or shingle.
Rather than simply being pulled along by the tractor, the carriage's own tracks are also powered.
How will this help save more lives?
These powerful tracks allow the lifeboat to be launched in areas inaccessible to the Mersey, often closer to the casualty, making for speedier rescues.
Unique turntableWe can launch and recover the Shannon bow-first, thanks to a unique turntable feature built into the carriage. The turntable rotates the lifeboat once she's recovered, reducing the time and space needed to prepare for relaunch.
Having the hydraulics turn the boat around also reduces the manpower required during recovery.
A hydraulic system powers the turntable and winch and also enables the launching device to lower its height to fit inside many of the RNLI's existing boathouses without extensive building work.
How will this help save more lives?
It should take no longer than 10 minutes to make the lifeboat ready for her next rescue, thanks in large part to this turntable. This is 10 minutes faster than was possible with the old launch and recovery system. So, if the lifeboat is needed again immediately after recovery, those in trouble at sea won't have to wait long for rescue.
The engineThe tractor had an engine upgrade, from a Mercedes V6 to a more powerful Scania 331kW model. The engine powers the tracks that move the whole launch and recovery system, as well as the launching winch.
As the lifeboat itself has similar Scania engines, the RNLI's mechanics and engineers won't need so much different training and equipment to maintain both.
Because this is a bespoke vehicle, the engineers at Supacat designed a special cooling system that, as well as cooling the engine, seals it off from the hostile marine environment.
How will this help save more lives?
The engine is more powerful, easier to maintain and totally waterproof. Our crews can depend upon the power of the tractor to launch their Shannon class lifeboat onto the water quickly when needed.
More windowsDuring the launch and recovery system's development, we replaced the tractor's steel frame with one made from composite materials.
This allowed a much more flexible design and increased the window surface area.
Thanks to your support we reached our target of £5M to fund two Shannon class all-weather lifeboats with launch and recovery vehicles. And they’ll be operational within the year.
But raising funds wasn’t the only way you got involved …
Last Christmas and New Year we gave you the opportunity to send messages to the crews of the first Shannon class lifeboats, explaining your support for our new lifeboat appeal.
You sent messages in your droves and our crews were overwhelmed with your words of support and encouragement.
As a lasting memento, we've compiled those heartfelt messages into a book called Messages for the Shannon, which will soon be available to crews at RNLI College in Poole.
You also sent in your photos so that we could use them as part of the naming ceremony for the very first Shannon lifeboat which took place in July – making you a part of it!
Together we can bring lifeboat building home.
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