Our work in the Channel FAQs
Find answers to our most frequently asked questions.
RNLI crews in south east England are engaged in a significant level of work in the Channel as a result of more men, women and children crossing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in small, overcrowded and unseaworthy boats.
Our crews are tasked in the UK by HM Coastguard to assist anyone who is in trouble on or in the water and will go to the aid of those crossing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in small, overcrowded and unseaworthy boats , when tasked to do so. We are incredibly proud of our crews who continue to respond selflessly to their pagers, day or night, simply to help others. They have responded in extremely demanding search and rescue environments with continued dedication and commitment. We are a voluntary lifesaving rescue service, and will rescue anyone in trouble at sea, as the RNLI has been doing for nearly 200 years, without judgement or preference.
Anyone can drown but no one should. The RNLI will always help those in trouble in the water – no matter who they are or where they come from. The RNLI's volunteer lifeboat crews will do everything in their power to save a life and to help those in distress. In any rescue, our priority is to ensure that casualties are treated with skill, care and respect and brought to safety as quickly as possible. Our crews then pass over responsibility for them to the most appropriate agency – this might be the ambulance service, police or Border Force.
It is not for us to question whether people should be here; that is a question for Government. Our core purpose as a charity has always been to help people who are in trouble on or in the water, and this remains our focus.
We do not hold information on costs per rescue, as these can vary widely and are dependent on a number of factors including the length and type of shout, the class of lifeboat and the amount of fuel used.
This question would be better addressed to HM Coastguard and Border Force. Our crews launched 290 times to suspected Channel crossings in 2022 which equates to 3% of the total number of launches for the entire RNLI. During those shouts our volunteer crews saved the lives of 108 people.
We respond to call outs in the Channel when tasked by HM Coastguard to help those in distress. The RNLI will always help anyone in trouble at sea and does not judge those it rescues. Our core purpose remains to save lives at sea.
If someone is in trouble at sea and we are tasked, we will launch to help them – no matter who they are or where they come from, as we have been doing for nearly 200 years. We are incredibly proud of our crews who continue to respond selflessly to their pagers, day or night, simply to help others. They have responded in extremely demanding search and rescue environments with continued dedication and commitment. Everyone at the RNLI remains focused on our core purpose of saving lives at sea.
The RNLI is one of a number of HM Coastguard’s declared list of search assets around the UK for the purposes of saving lives at sea and is tasked by them as necessary. HM Coastguard is responsible for initiation and coordination of all maritime search and rescue within the UK Maritime Search and Rescue Region and actively manage multiple distress scenarios, calling in the RNLI depending on the immediate needs at the time.
The RNLI’s volunteer crews are tasked and coordinated in the UK by HM Coastguard to assist anyone who is in trouble on or in the water. If someone is in trouble at sea, and we are tasked, we will launch to help them. Our lifeboats operate under international maritime law, which states we are permitted and indeed obligated to enter the waters of other territories for search and rescue purposes.
No. The RNLI is a charity, funded by generous supporters. Their kind donations power our lifesavers to the aid of those in danger at sea.
The RNLI does not normally seek funding from government, to ensure that we retain independence in all that we do to save lives at sea. However, there are exceptions made where such independence is not compromised. We received some funding through the Covid furlough scheme and occasionally receive grants for specific International projects.
The RNLI provide a lifeguard service for local authorities and landowners at their request. Local authorities and landowners invest in keeping their beach visitors safe by contributing to RNLI costs, which helps to meet lifeguard wages, while the extensive training and equipment needed is provided by the charity through public donations.
The RNLI exists to save lives at sea. The charity has evolved for almost 200 years to meet the needs of its volunteers, staff, supporters, and the communities it serves. Whether that be with the introduction of lifeguards to meet the changing ways our coastline is used by both water users and tourists, the introduction of lifeboats on the Thames in response to the Marchioness Disaster, the introduction of educational programs to raise awareness of water safety or the continuing development of lifesaving assets to best serve the evolving communities and lifesaving demands in the locations which we serve, in order to save lives at sea.
We regularly review risk and changing use of our coastlines allowing us to allocate resources where and when it is needed and when doing this we always consider the best use of our donor's money.
We have been open and honest about the work our crews do to rescue people when crossing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in small, overcrowded and unseaworthy boats. We are incredibly proud of this lifesaving work carried out by our crews. We are also incredibly proud of our supporters who enable us to do this. Their generous donations gives us the independence to make decisions on where our funds need to be spent in order to reduce drowning and to save lives at sea as effectively as possible.
We are very clear that our mission remains to save lives at sea without judgment or prejudice and we are proud that our supporters give us their backing and encouragement to do this.
We are transparent about our spending and accountable to our supporters.
Our annual accounts are published online and are available for all to see.
In recent years, there has been an increase in taskings to men, women and children attempting to make the dangerous crossing of the Channel in in small, overcrowded and unseaworthy boats We understand the demand this places on our volunteers, staff, their families and employers and we thank them for their understanding, support and continued effort to save lives at sea. The welfare of our volunteers and staff will always be a top priority and, as with all aspects of the RNLI’s lifesaving service, we continue to look at ways in which we can improve how we best support them. We are incredibly proud of our lifeboat crews throughout the UK and Ireland who answer their pagers 24/7, 365 days a year to help others.
No. We review demand on our resources continually and where more resource and assets are required, we allocate them accordingly. If a station experiences a surge in demand and requires an additional asset, we will allocate this if it provides necessary support to our volunteer crew there and to those they are tasked to rescue. Our resources are allocated on the basis of need. Our work in the Channel is one part of what the RNLI does to save lives at sea around the UK and Ireland and last year accounted for 3% of the total number of launches for the RNLI’s 238 lifeboat stations.