International FAQ

Your questions answered on our lifesaving work overseas.

Why is the RNLI extending its focus beyond the UK and Ireland?

The RNLI’s maritime lifesaving expertise has been built up over 190 years and we can help others in the international lifesaving community by sharing our knowledge and experience, to help them improve their services and tackle drowning.

Do you do this on your own?

No, our intention is to help other countries and organisations to help themselves, so the RNLI won’t be responsible itself for reducing drowning around the world. Instead we will aim to collaborate with those countries and organisations, supporting integrated drowning reduction activities across regions and countries.

What are the other countries doing to tackle drowning themselves?

It’s part of our approach to ensure that the countries we’re working with recognise the scale of the problem they are facing, have access to effective solutions and have the will to act. At this stage, there often isn’t enough evidence on the effectiveness (and cost-effectiveness) of drowning prevention interventions, relative to other public health issues. Together this can make it difficult for governments to prioritise. We want to promote better knowledge and awareness to change that, and have already published preliminary research into the economic impact of global drowning.

How much does the RNLI spend on international work?

In 2017, we spent £2.9M, equivalent to 1.9% of the RNLI’s total charitable spend. 

How is the RNLI’s international work funded?

In addition to seeking donations from individuals, trusts, foundations and other international development donors who specifically want to fund our international activity, our international work has access to RNLI general funds, where needed, in the same way as our domestic activity. We currently spend less than 2% of our total annual expenditure on international work – this investment does not and will not impact our domestic rescue services.

What is the RNLI doing about drowning deaths such as those in the Mediterranean Sea?

The RNLI is providing training and equipment to the Hellenic Rescue Team (HRT). It provides a volunteer lifeboat service in the narrow channels between Turkey and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have made the crossing and hundreds of people have died, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The RNLI is one of a group of European maritime search and rescue (SAR) services who have agreed to help HRT with the migrant crisis under the banner of the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF). The IMRF is the international charity that works with government and non-government SAR organisations to prevent loss of life in the world's waters.

The RNLI is joining forces with the German (DGzRS), Dutch (KNRM) and Swedish (SSRS) maritime SAR organisations, to strengthen the local search and rescue services in the Aegean. We’ll help with coordination, training and the provision of equipment and rescue boats during 2016.