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RNLI confirms change to Berwick-upon-Tweed lifeboat provision

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI has confirmed an Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat will operate permanently at Berwick-upon-Tweed, replacing the station’s all-weather lifeboat.

The Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat, which has been trialled at the station for the past nine months and proved it is the right lifesaving vessel for the station, will operate alongside Berwick’s smaller D-class inshore lifeboat.

Detailed analysis of rescues carried out by the station over a ten-year period shows that an Atlantic 85 would have been able to deal with 97% of the services responded to by the all-weather lifeboat. In some cases, the higher speed and better manoeuvrability of the Atlantic 85 mean it would have been a more suitable rescue vessel than the current Mersey class.

Ross Barraclough, RNLI Head of Region for the North and East, said: ‘The RNLI has been totally committed to saving lives at sea for almost 200 years, responding to changing patterns of sea use and conditions to ensure we have the right lifesaving asset at our lifeboat stations.

‘The decision to change the make-up of lifeboats at Berwick RNLI, by replacing their Mersey when it comes to the end of its operational life with a new Atlantic 85 has been decided following a thorough review of lifesaving effect provided by Berwick-upon-Tweed lifeboat station. A detailed analysis of launch data shows that the services by Berwick RNLI all-weather lifeboat in the ten years covered by the coast review could have been carried out safely and effectively by an Atlantic 85 lifeboat with, support from flank stations if required.’

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.’

Ross continued: ‘The change of lifesaving configuration at Berwick will amount to an improvement to our lifesaving capability in the area. With a top speed of 35 knots, the Atlantic 85 is much faster than both the Mersey and the Shannon Class all-weather lifeboats; it can reach casualties more quickly and it also has a better shallow-water capability. By making this change, we will be adjusting the service to better address the risks that we are tasked to respond to in this area.

‘We are very grateful for all that our volunteers do and are confident the Berwick crew will continue to maintain their superb lifesaving tradition. Since the Atlantic 85 has been on trial at the station the crew have shown a great level of commitment to familiarise themselves with the boat and gain the necessary operational training. We understand this may not have been the decision they were hoping for, but I hope they will continue to work with us to prepare for a new era of lifesaving at Berwick.’

Kevin Knox, RNLI Lifeboat Station Operations Manager at Berwick, said: ‘As a station we are disappointed with the decision that we will no longer be an all-weather lifeboat station. Our Mersey has served us so well for almost 30 years and we will be sad to see her go. But we understand why the decision has been made and will work together to implement the changes and future plans for the station. As a strong and committed team of volunteers we give our time to save lives at sea and this is something we will continue to do.’

The RNLI plan to carry out considerable improvements and upgrades to Berwick’s lifeboat station to prepare them for their new lifeboat and to ensure the volunteer crews have the very best equipment and facilities to save lives at sea. The aim is to complete this work and have the new lifeboat configuration at the station in place by summer 2023.

Notes to editors

  • The RNLI carries out an in-depth coast review every five years, analysing rescues carried out in recent years as well as assessing the changing trends in water use, search and rescue demand and the improving capabilities of modern lifeboats. As part of the review process each lifeboat station that are directly affected are invited to feed into the review so that the RNLI have a full picture of the local needs and circumstances.
  • A detailed analysis of the area’s service launches from 2005 – 2014 showed that all the services dealt with by Berwick’s all-weather lifeboat could have been successfully handled by 25 knot ALBs at Eyemouth (8 miles away) and/or Seahouses (16 miles away). An Atlantic 85 would have been able to deal with 97% of the ALB services.
  • To meet the Institution’s Concept of Operations and Strategic Performance Standards – i.e. to reach at least 90% of all casualties within 10 nautical miles of the coast within 30 minutes of launch in all weathers – we need a network of 25 knot ALBs strategically placed around the coast, along with suitably located inshore lifeboats. From 2020, we have had 25 knot all-weather lifeboats stationed at Eyemouth, Seahouses and Amble which means the need for an all-weather lifeboat at Berwick is removed.

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.