More than 2,000 people in south east England* rescued by lifeboats in one year

Lifeboats News Release

In 2016 more than 2,000 people were rescued from the seas around the south east coast of England* in 2016, prompting a plea from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) for people to take more care at the coast and respect water.

Volunteer lifeboat crews from 39* lifeboat stations around the coast launched a total of 1,981 times in 2016, rescuing a total of 2,013 people who were in distress.

RNLI lifeboats on the coast of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were on hand 24/7 every day of the year to help those in need, while the charity’s lifeguards patrolled 36 beaches in the area in summer 2016.

And there appears to be no let-up in the number of people needing the charity’s lifesavers, as figures show lifeboat launches are up by 13 per cent on 2015’s total of 1,750 launches. Similarly, the number of people rescued increased by 3 per cent in 2016, up from 1,940 people in 2015.

Whilst the RNLI is primarily a frontline rescue service, the charity isn’t just about rescuing people when they find themselves in danger. It aims to equip people with the knowledge and skills to avoid trouble in the first place and know what to do should they find themselves or others in danger in the water.

Glen Mallen, RNLI Lifesaving Manager, said: ‘Once again we are extremely grateful for the dedication shown by our lifesavers. Our volunteer lifeboat crews collectively spent in excess of 42,800 hours at sea, but we really do see our rescue service as a last resort.

‘We’d really like to see people paying more attention to safety messages and giving the water the heathy respect it deserves. While we will always answer the call for help, I and everyone within the RNLI would like to see people staying safer at the coast.’

The number of lifeboat launches around the 237 lifeboat stations around the entire coast of the UK and Ireland is up 7 % from 2015 to 8,851 in 2016 (a five-year high). Lifeguard incidents also increased from 2015 to 2016, up to 17,414. The charity’s lifesavers saved 558 people’s lives last year.

It’s not just those who use water frequently who find themselves needing help. Last year proved that a trip to the coast can prove fatal if people do not take care or ask for help. One major tragedy saw five young men drown after getting into difficulty in the sea off Camber Sands, East Sussex. This summer the RNLI will provide a lifeguard service at those beaches at the request of the local authority.

While thousands of people can celebrate being helped or saved by the RNLI each year, sadly around 190 people die at the UK and Irish coasts each year. In 2016 twelve people died in just five days in August. Tragedies like these are something the RNLI wants to minimise through educating people in how to stay safe and knowing what to do should they find themselves or someone else in danger at the coast.

Glen continued: ‘We’re calling on anyone visiting the coast to make safety a priority, whether that means wearing a lifejacket, checking their vessel before they go afloat, knowing they should call 999 and asking for the Coastguard in the event of an emergency, checking the tide times before they set out, or staying away from cliff edges and unstable coastal paths.’

For a wealth of information on how to stay safe on or near the water or to find your nearest lifeguarded beach, visit the RNLI’s website at

2016 – the RNLI overall in numbers

  • Lifeboat Launches: 8,851
  • Lifeboat Lives Saved: 431
  • Lifeboat People Rescued: 8,643
  • Lifeboat Crew Hours at Sea: 60,306
  • Lifeboat Exercise Hours at Sea: 168,562
  • Lifeboat Total Hours at Sea: 228,869
  • It’s been the busiest year for lifeboat launches since 2011.
  • Launches to people in the water took a 25% increase from 2015.
  • Machinery failure continues to be the biggest reason for launching lifeboats.
  • Missing people saw a 25% increase against the 2015 figures.

Notes to editors

* 39 lifeboat stations around the coast of the south east England include, in geographical order

Hunstanton, Wells, Sheringham, Cromer, Happisburgh, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston, Lowestoft, Southwold, Aldeburgh, Harwich, Walton and Frinton, Clacton-On-Sea, West Mersea, Burnham-On-Crouch, Southend-On-Sea, Gravesend, Sheerness, Whitstable, Margate, Ramsgate, Walmer, Dover, Littlestone-On-Sea, Dungeness, Rye Harbour, Hastings, Eastbourne, Newhaven, Brighton, Shoreham Harbour, Littlehampton, Selsey, Hayling Island, Portsmouth, Calshot, Lymington, Bembridge, Cowes, Yarmouth.

RNLI media contacts

  • Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207426, 07785 296252 [email protected]
  • For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.