Nusrat Ghani MP visits Tower Lifeboat Station for Maritime Safety Week
The Minister witnessed first-hand the vital importance of RNLI lifeboat stations on the River Thames yesterday (11 July) when her official visit to Tower lifeboat station was interrupted while the crew launched to reports of a person in the water.
The Minister was at the RNLI station, based by Waterloo Bridge, as part of the inaugural Maritime Safety Week, which has been organised by the government to share knowledge and best practice within the maritime industry and respond to the safety challenges it faces in the future.
The emergency call came just minutes after the Minister, who works within the Department for Transport and whose portfolio includes maritime safety and security, had been given a tour of the station’s E class lifeboat, which is the fastest in the RNLI fleet and was specially designed to handled powerful tidal currents, submerged debris and heavy traffic on the Thames.
After seeing at first hand the crew, made up of two full-time staff and two volunteers, launch within 90 seconds, Ms Ghani, spoke of her admiration for the thousands of volunteers who keep the charity’s 238 lifeboat stations across the UK and the Republic of Ireland operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year:
‘Every day, RNLI crews put their lives at risk to rescue others - they are the unsung heroes of London and beyond,’ said Ms Ghani, who is also the MP for Wealden in East Sussex. ‘There are so many hidden dangers in and around the water so we want everyone to make sure they stay as safe as possible. However when things do go wrong, it is reassuring to know there is such a dedicated team ready to act to help save lives’.
During her visit to the station, which is the RNLI’s busiest and has already launched 345 times this year, Ms Ghani met with the charity’s Operations Director George Rawlinson, Neil Withers, Area Lifeboat Manager (who is responsible for the four RNLI lifeboat stations on the Thames as well as at Southend and Sheerness) and Helen Dent, RNLI Community Safety Manager.
Mr Rawlinson gave Ms Ghani a history of the station, which was opened following the official enquiry into the Marchioness disaster in August 1989, when 51 lives were lost on the Thames following a collision between a riverboat and a dredger.
He also spoke about the RNLI’s contribution to National Water Safety Forum, which works to improve water safety and the charity’s aim of wanting to halve the numbers who drown accidentally around the coast by 2024. He also discussed the charity’s lifeguard service, which now patrols more than 240 beaches, the importance of water safety lessons in schools and the RNLI’s work in tackling the global drowning epidemic which claims an estimated 360,000 lives a year.
‘We’re always pleased to meet with partner organisations and government to share the detail of how we work and look at opportunities to improve water safety, said Mr Rawlinson. ‘Maritime Safety Week is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the risks of drowning in the public eye’.
Mr Withers spoke of the millions of new homes due to be built along the banks of the River Thames in the coming decades, the increase in activity on and around the river and how the RNLI was planning to respond to those challenges.
Helen Dent highlighted the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign, which is aimed at promoting safety advice to all those who visit the coast. A key tenet of the campaign is to alert people to the dangers of cold water shock, which can leave people helpless in seconds and the charity’s advice to float on your back to catch your breath while the effects pass. This advice has already saved lives.
Helen also highlighted the RNLI’s Swim Safe campaign, run in conjunction with Swim England, which began in 2013 and offers thousands of children aged 7-14 free tuition in how to be safe in and around open water.
1) Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani is shown around the RNLI’s E class lifeboat with crew members (left to right) Rob Archibald (helm), Jamie Bourke, Colin McCarthy and Steffan Ciccotti (helm)
2) Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani pictured with (left to right) RNLI Community Safety Manager Helen Dent, RNLI Operations Director George Rawlinson and Neil Withers, Area Lifeboat Manager for London and the Thames.
3) The Tower E class lifeboat Hurley Burly responds to an emergency call during the minister’s visit.
Tower Lifeboat Station
The crew of Tower Lifeboat Station is made up of full-time staff and volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds and works closely with the Metropolitan Police Marine Policing Unit, London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service and HM Coastguard on the tidal Thames. Last year the station launched 485 times and assisted 150 people.
Maritime Safety Week
Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani MP launched the inaugural Maritime Safety Week, running from 9 to 13 July 2018, as part of the government’s efforts to share knowledge, experience and best practice within the industry. The aim is to increase the understanding of what the sector is already doing to respond to the safety challenges it faces and plan for the future.
RNLI Media contacts
- Paul Dunt, RNLI Regional Media Officer (South East and London), 0207 6207426, 07785 296252 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Julie Rainey, RNLI Regional Media Manager (South East and London) 07827 358256 email@example.com
- 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 over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, 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.