RNLI Leverburgh to Receive New Lifeboat Following Consultation Process

Lifeboats News Release

RNLI update regarding service in South Harris

In September 2020 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.

Over the last nine months, we have worked with our volunteers to consider data regarding the frequency and type of launches seen by our lifeboat as well as reviewing volunteer availability. Following this review, and in collaboration with the RNLI Leverburgh Lifeboat Management Group, it has been decided that the most sustainable solution, with the highest likelihood for success, is to change the class of lifeboat based in Leverburgh.

Jill Hepburn, Lifesaving Manager for Scotland said: “The proposal that we have put to the Lifeboat Management Group, which has been accepted, is to station an Atlantic 85 lifeboat in Leverburgh. An Atlantic 85 is an ‘inshore’ lifeboat which requires fewer crew to launch, could comfortably respond to the majority of previous RNLI Leverburgh shouts and allows the community to maintain a lifesaving asset with less pressure on a limited number of volunteers.

“The proposal for the Atlantic 85 to be stationed in Leverburgh is for a two-year trial period with regular reviews to ensure that this is a sustainable option. We have been open with our volunteers that if the Atlantic 85 is not found to be a sustainable solution, during regular review, then we will need to explore alternative options which could include moving of the lifeboat to a more suitable location or removing the service altogether. We have also been open with our existing volunteers that current crew levels remain borderline in terms of being able to sustain a lifeboat station, this is even with the substantially reduced crewing requirements of an Atlantic 85 as opposed to a Shannon class lifeboat.

“We are very grateful to our Lifeboat Management Group in Leverburgh for collaborating with us to find this solution and for those in the community who have come forward to volunteer on the Atlantic 85. The consultation process has taken just under a year whilst we assess all of the data, review submissions from the Lifeboat Management Group and ensure that once we had a solution everything would be in place to hit the ground running.”

A spokesperson for Leverburgh RNLI’s Lifeboat Management Group said:

“Leverburgh Lifeboat Management Group appreciate the endeavours of the RNLI in reaching the decision to place an Atlantic 85 in the area, confirming the strategic importance of having an RNLI presence at Leverburgh. We are confident that, with the commitment of our crew in conjunction with support from the RNLI, a sustainable lifesaving service can be restored and maintained.

“Locally, we are committed to working alongside the RNLI to achieve the best possible result, on behalf of the surrounding communities who have supported us so well since the service came to Leverburgh in 2012. Our volunteer crew – both existing and new – are looking forward to the recommencement of training and familiarising themselves with the Atlantic 85 in the coming months.”

This solution does mean that the Shannon class all-weather lifeboat, Stella and Humpfrey Berkeley, will not be returning to Leverburgh. Instead the lifeboat will be introduced into our Scottish relief fleet where she will be able to ensure the continued service of all the Shannon class stations within Scotland. Her initial stationing will be in Montrose.

We are now beginning the work of transporting an Atlantic 85 to Leverburgh, providing training for our volunteers and refreshing the station building. Significant work has been done to ensure that an Atlantic 85 is made available for the station, that RNLI trainers have availability to provide training in Harris, that courses are available for volunteers to attend at the RNLI College in Poole and that staff are available to help maintain and service the lifeboat. With all training and crew competency sign offs going to plan we hope to be able to restart a lifeboat service in Leverburgh in late November 2021.

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