Eight thousand reasons why the RNLI in London needs your help this Christmas

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI’s busiest lifeboat station, located next to Waterloo Bridge in central London, has just launched its lifeboat for the 8,000th time since opening on the Thames in 2002.

Photo of RNLI Lifeboat on the Thames.


Tower Lifeboat Station has just marked its 8,000th launch.

The 8,000th shout followed reports of a person in the water. The crew, which is on call 24/7 and made up of RNLI staff and volunteers, launched in 90 seconds and sped to the scene, near Westminster Bridge. The call turned out to be a false alarm with good intent and the lifeboat returned to station.

Tower Lifeboat Station, along with RNLI lifeboat stations at Gravesend, Chiswick and Teddington, were opened on Jan 2, 2002 following the inquiry into the Marchioness disaster in August 1989. Fifty-one lives were lost when the boat, which was full of partygoers, was in collision with a dredger.

The station’s crew has launched 520 times this year and saved 20 lives. This latest shout means, that on average, volunteers at the station have launched more than eight times every week since it opened seventeen years ago. In that time the four RNLI stations on the Thames have launched 14,448 times, saved 587 lives and aided 5,017 people.*

Tower Lifeboat Station manager, Kevin Maynard, who has been at the station since it opened, said the 8,000th launch underlined how vital the London RNLI lifeboat stations are to saving lives in the capital. But he warned that the charity’s lifesaving work was coming under increasing pressure:

‘Across the RNLI we are launching more times than ever, more people need our help, but our income is falling,’ he explained. ‘We are calling it the Perfect Storm and we desperately need more support from the public’.

‘Tower Lifeboat Station is a classic example. We are based on a floating pier which is more than 100 years old, but it needs £3 million spent on its moorings to prevent damage caused by the constant bumps and jolts. That’s money we need even before we look at the cost of keeping the lifeboat running and the crew equipped and trained.’

Over the past year, rescues by the crew at Tower Lifeboat Station have included rescuing a woman who fell into the river and became trapped alongside a barge and was in danger of being crushed or drowned. The crew also saved a man’s life near Woolwich Pier, just seconds after he disappeared beneath the water.

As Christmas approaches, new figures show volunteer lifeboat crews at the charity’s 238 lifeboat stations are more than 600% busier over the festive period compared with 40 years ago. During the festive period** last year, RNLI volunteers launched to the rescue 155 times compared with just 21 call outs in 1979. During the festive periods dating back to 1979, RNLI volunteers have rescued 1,453 people and saved 299 lives.

On Christmas Day, like any other day of the year, crew and volunteers will be on standby at Tower Lifeboat Station ready to response at a moment’s notice to anyone in difficulty on the Thames.

*Figures calculated to 08/12/2019

**Festive periods calculated from 24 Dec – 1 Jan.

Note to editors:

Tower Lifeboat Station:

Tower lifeboat station is the RNLI’s busiest station and is based on the former Waterloo Police Pier by Waterloo Bridge. The crew of Tower Lifeboat is made up of full-time staff and volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds and careers from fire-fighters to musicians, from paramedics to lawyers.

Because of the need for an immediate response there is a crew on station 24/7 with a launch time of around 90 seconds. The station operates an E class lifeboat which is the fastest boat in the RNLI, capable of 40 knots. It was specially designed to handle the powerful tidal currents of the Thames, submerged debris and heavy traffic.

The crew of the station works closely with the Metropolitan Police Marine Policing Unit, London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service and HM Coastguard.

The Perfect Storm:

To ensure the RNLI can continue its lifesaving work this Christmas and into the future, the charity is running a major fundraising appeal, The Perfect Storm, with the aim of raising £1.8M and recruiting 12,000 new supporters.

The RNLI’s Perfect Storm appeal has been launched in response to some major challenges the charity is facing. In 2018, the RNLI’s financial resources dropped by £28.6M, while its crews are busier than ever.

To support the RNLI’s Perfect Storm appeal this Christmas, helping to ensure the charity’s brave volunteers can continue saving lives at sea, please visit RNLI.org/ThePerfectStorm

RNLI Media contacts:

Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer (South East), 0207 6207426, 07785 296252 [email protected]

Julie Rainey, Regional Media Manager (South East and London) 07827 358256

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

RNLI online: For more information on the RNLI please visit http://www.rnli.org/. News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI News Centre.

Close up of the crew on the Thames with Tower Bridge in the background.


The Tower RNLI Lifeboat crew afloat on the Thames.
Aerial shot of Tower Lifeboat Station by Waterloo Bridge.


Tower Lifeboat Station on the Thames.
Wide shot of the Tower lifeboat out on a shout.

RNLI/Paul Dunt

The Tower lifeboat out on another shout.

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

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.