RNLI Statement - Consultation with Leverburgh LBS

Lifeboats News Release

In September we began a consultation process with our volunteers in Leverburgh about the future of our lifeboat service in South Harris.

The consultation followed significant periods of ‘off-service’ for the lifeboat, during 2019, due to a lack of operational and trained personnel. The lifeboat has been off-service since November 2019. The situation, whilst not caused by, has been impacted and compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the last couple of months, we have worked with our volunteers to consider data regarding the frequency and type of launches seen by our lifeboat and the station since its establishment in 2012. Over the past 8 years, our crews at Leverburgh have responded to 97 shouts, an average of 14 per year and assisted 86 people, no lives were registered as ‘saved’ in this period. This data is compiled by service returns and is (as with all stations) regularly analysed by specialist teams within the RNLI.

The consultation process enables the important views of the RNLI Leverburgh volunteers to be considered as well as providing a local context to the data from those who deliver the service in South Harris.

We have faced challenges since the establishment of the station, particularly around maintaining sufficient numbers of trained and available crew. We have committed significant investment of time and resource to the station but these efforts have, unfortunately, not eased the situation. We also face the realities of, official government estimates that continue to project, a declining and ageing population which places increased demands on a limited number of volunteers. The challenge we all have now, and what we’ve asked the station volunteers to feedback to us on, is ensuring that we have a lifesaving asset that can be crewed now and sustainably into the future. Wherever a lifeboat is stationed around the coastline of the UK and Ireland, we have a responsibility to make sure that we are effective as a lifesaving service and available for the majority of the time.

We have great respect for and empathy with the community in Leverburgh and we recognise the immense work that the community have already put into the station and continue to put into the consultation process. As a lifesaving organisation and charity, we will always act with the best interests of our volunteers and our donors in mind, we can do this by ensuring the effectiveness of our service and fulfilling our primary purpose of being able to respond when called.

The Leverburgh lifeboat is temporarily in Inverness, where it is undergoing essential planned maintenance and will then remain in Inverness, where it will be fully maintained, until a decision is reached regarding the future of the station in Leverburgh. During this time, as throughout the past year, the area will be well served by our stations in Stornoway, Barra and Portree as well as by our colleagues in the Coastguard, including the rescue helicopter based in Stornoway.

We will continue to work with our volunteers in Leverburgh in order to reach a decision about the sustainability of the RNLI’s presence in South Harris.

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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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.