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Changes to Essex lifeboat fleet to ensure lifesaving service is fit for future

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI is making changes to its Essex lifeboat fleet to ensure the county has the best resources available to continue saving lives at sea well into the future.

A Shannon class all-weather lifeboat (ALB) will replace Clacton-on-Sea’s current Atlantic 85 B-Class inshore lifeboat and will work alongside the station’s D-class inshore lifeboat.

Walton and Frinton’s Tamar class all-weather lifeboat (ALB) will be replaced by a D-class inshore lifeboat. The D-class is designed to operate close to shore in shallow waters and is also an ideal lifeboat to tackle challenging rescues along this part of the Tendring coastline.

This combination of all-weather and inshore lifeboats at Clacton and Walton and Frinton, with support from flanking lifeboat stations, will provide the best combination of assets to respond to the types of rescues the RNLI’s volunteer crews deal with in this area.

The decision to reconfigure the RNLI’s lifeboats on this stretch of coast was approved by the RNLI’s Trustees following a review of the charity’s lifesaving assets in the north of the county to ensure the charity can save as many lives as possible.

Clacton is the most practical location for an ALB on this stretch of coast. As a charity, the RNLI must ensure we make the best use of our supporters' donations and placing a Shannon class lifeboat at Clacton makes the most financial sense while providing the same high level of lifesaving service.

As a result of the decision, both Walton and Frinton and Clacton Lifeboat Stations will undergo considerable improvements and upgrades to prepare them for their new lifeboats and to ensure the volunteer crews have the very best equipment and facilities to save lives at sea.

Harwich Lifeboat Station will retain its Severn class ALB and Atlantic 85 B-class ILB lifeboats, while West Mersea will also retain its B-class ILB. It means the Essex coast will retain its cover of six lifeboat stations and volunteer crews – and be future proofed for the challenges ahead.

Ross Barraclough, the RNLI’s Head of Region for the North and East, said: ‘As we look ahead to a new era of lifesaving along the north Essex coast, I’d like to thank our volunteers and staff for their patience while we carried out this review, and for their ongoing commitment to saving lives at sea. We do understand that the Walton and Frinton crew are disappointed by this decision but I hope they will continue to work with us to ensure they are ready for the challenges and changes ahead.

‘The RNLI is continually reviewing its lifesaving effect around the coast of the UK and Ireland to make sure the right boats and equipment are in the right places to enable our crews to save as many lives as possible.

‘The RNLI’s goal is to ‘save everyone’ and replacing Walton and Frinton’s existing ALB with a highly capable inshore lifeboat will help us meet that aim.’

Stewart Oxley, volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager for Walton and Frinton Lifeboat said: ‘Whilst everyone involved with the lifeboat station is extremely disappointed at this announcement and surprised by the outcome of the review, all of the volunteers remain absolutely committed to continuing the 140-year legacy of local lifesaving cover during this period of transition, and we are currently in discussions with the RNLI management team to define exactly how lifeboating in Walton will look going forward.’

The Shannon class lifeboat is capable of a top speed of 25 knots and is highly manoeuvrable and agile due to it being propelled by water jets, rather than traditional propellers. It has a range of 250 miles and is capable of rescuing as many as 79 people at one time. Positioning it at Clacton-on-Sea lifeboat station will mean it is in the ideal position to cover the busy approaches to the Thames estuary.

The Shannon-class lifeboat entered service with the RNLI in 2014, but this is the first time one has been assigned to a station in Essex.

It is anticipated that Clacton Lifeboat Station will complete its station improvements and receive its Shannon lifeboat in 2024. In the meantime, the Walton and Frinton crew will begin training on the D-class lifeboat shortly.

Notes for Editors

  • The Shannon class lifeboat was designed in-house by RNLI engineers and is designed to be launched and recovered from a beach or slipway using a purpose built launch and recovery system. The name Shannon follows a RNLI tradition of naming lifeboat classes after rivers and is the first time an Irish river has been chosen.
  • The D-class lifeboat can travel for three hours at a top speed of 25 knots, the same as a Shannon lifeboat. D-class lifeboats have the manoeuvrability to access areas that would be otherwise inaccessible for our all-weather lifeboats. It is known as the workhorse of the RNLI fleet.
  • The current Tamar class lifeboat at Walton and Frinton is located at the end of Walton Pier and accessed via a boarding boat, housed in the existing station. Following a review of the search and rescue data from Walton and Frinton and neighbouring stations it has become clear this is not the best location for an all-weather lifeboat along the Essex coast. Any call outs that require a larger ALB can be rapidly responded to by the new Shannon lifeboat at Clacton and Severn class lifeboat at Harwich, which are both capable of speeds of 25 knots.
  • Many of the rescues currently attended by the Walton and Frinton Tamar lifeboat will be reached just as quickly when a Shannon is based at Clacton. The stations are just 7 miles apart, with the variance in distance travelled to rescues decreasing the further out to sea they go.

RNLI media contacts

For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact North and East Regional Media Officer, Clare Hopps, on [email protected] or 07824 518641. Alternatively, please contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336 789 or [email protected].

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.