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Sheerness RNLI Lifeboat helps a Dutch Barge in trouble in the Thames Estuary

Lifeboats News Release

After breaking down in the Thames estuary a 57 foot Dutch barge was towed to safety.

The volunteer crew of the Sheerness RNLI all weather lifeboat ‘George and Ivy Swanson’ were called by the UK Coastguard at 3.35pm on Thursday 11 May to assist a 57 foot Dutch barge ‘Great Escape’ that had broken down and was at anchor on the south side of the extremely busy Thames channel off Holehaven on the Essex coast.

The vessel with two people, husband and wife, on board was located at 4.03pm along with a Port of London authority vessel which was also in attendance at the scene.

Due to the very strong ebb tide running at the time it was decided that the best scenario would be to tow the barge back to Queenborough Harbour.

The husband and wife couple on board were transferred to the lifeboat and a tow line was attached to the barge which was eventually secured at the all tide landing at Queenborough at 6.00pm

The couple were on route from Gillingham to Gravesend where the barge was to be moored and become their new home.

After having been released from this job the lifeboat crew were immediately re-tasked by the UK Coastguard to assist in the search for a 30 foot craft ‘Heather Belle’ with one man on board which had been reported manoeuvring erratically close to the busy Thames shipping channel.

It was immediately established that the vessel with its 69 year old occupant was the same one that the lifeboat crew had attended just two days earlier after it had grounded on Grain Spit in the Medway estuary.

Using the lifeboats direction finding equipment the craft was located sitting high and dry on a mud bank off Shoebury Ness on the Essex side of the estuary.

One of the Southend RNLI lifeboats was already in attendance at the scene and as the larger Sheerness boat could be of no assistance due to the lack of water the ALB returned to station and was ready for service again at 7.30pm.

It is not yet known what the outcome of this incident was as the elderly man is believed to have refused to leave his craft.


Media contacts:

• Vic Booth RNLI Lifeboat Press Officer (Sheerness) 07926904453 / 01795 880544 /

Paul Dunt RNLI Press Officer S.E. 07786668825

• Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207426, 07785 296252

• For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland