2005: The Tamar class lifeboat

Our new Tamar class lifeboat was designed with speed and crew safety in mind.

Moelfre RNLI’s Tamar class lifeboat, Kiwi, launching down the slipway

Photo: RNLI / Danielle Rush

Moelfre RNLI’s Tamar class lifeboat, Kiwi, launching down the slipway.

In the late 1980s, the RNLI realised that its fleet – which was made up on 16-18 knot all-weather lifeboats – needed upgrading in order to increase the number of lives saved at sea. As such, it was decided that the all-weather fleet should be capable of 25 knots.

After the introduction of the Trent and the Severn, the RNLI introduced the Tamar to gradually replace the 17-knot Tyne class lifeboat. 

Design and prototyping began in 2000, with the new Tamar class lifeboat designed to not only be quicker than the Tyne, but also to keep our crews safer. 

She is capable of a top speed of 25 knots thanks to her two Caterpillar C18 diesel engines providing 1000hp each. Being faster means she can reach casualties quicker and prevents the boat from being overtaken by following seas. 

Additionally, the Tamar was designed to negate one of the biggest risks to crews on a shout – being injured whilst moving or sitting aboard the boat. 

In older lifeboats, the seats were made of metal and foam and, as the lifeboats came off of the top of a wave, it often felt like they were landing on concrete, putting a lot of strain and stress on their backs. 

The Tamar seats are adapted from those used in HGVs – seats with built-in springs and suspension that cushion the effect of the impact on the crew’s backs.

The other obstacle that the design team faced was to reduce the need for crews to get out of their seats, therefore reducing the risk of injury. 

The Tamar Design Team then invented a bespoke Systems Information Management System (SIMS) that allowed crew members to access information and operate the lifeboat without leaving their seats. 

Systems ranging from radar to hydraulics and fire detection can all be controlled from almost every location on the boat, including the upper steering position. The upper steering position also has two methods of helming the boat; dual throttle controls and joystick on the port side and dual throttle, wheel and control screen on the starboard side.

The Tamar is also completely watertight and inherently self-righting, up to a capacity of 60 people onboard. The Tamar is capable of carrying 120 passengers onboard, but this requires a sacrifice of its self-righting capabilities.

The Tamar also carries a Y Class inflatable boat which can be deployed and recovered while at sea. 

However, with all of the improvements made to the engine in order to make a more powerful lifeboat, the Tamar has a completely different shaped hull to the Tyne, meaning that before they could launch, slipways needed to be modified and, in the case of Tenby, rebuilt.