Coastal maintenance

Making sure our lifeboats and lifesaving equipment out on the coast are safe, reliable and ready to save lives at sea is our Coastal Maintenance Team.
Dungeness mechanic trevor bunney inspecting the shannon class lifeboat

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

Dungeness RNLI Mechanic Trevor Bunney inspecting the very first Shannon class lifeboat, Jock and Annie Slater 13-01, during launch and recovery trials.

The 80-strong team of skilled technicians looks after a large range of sophisticated and expensive lifesaving kit, undertaking repairs, maintenance and modifications to our lifeboat fleet, launch and recovery systems and lifeguard equipment.

Organised within seven sub-teams, our Coastal Maintenance Team covers every RNLI lifeboat station, lifeguarded beach, regional base and support centre around the coasts of the UK and Ireland.

Second line maintenance

Every lifeboat station has a station mechanic who carries out routine maintenance of the station’s lifeboats and their launch and recovery equipment. 

Second line maintenance, where in-depth maintenance is required on a regular basis, is the responsibility of our Coastal Maintenance Team. 

This can include:

  • routine haul-outs of our all-weather lifeboats that lie afloat for essential hull and underwater maintenance
  • electronics maintenance on radar and navigational equipment – so vital in today’s fleet of sophisticated lifeboats
  • annual maintenance of our lifeguards’ beach equipment including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and four-wheel drive beach patrol vehicles.

Condition-based maintenance (CBM) – a form of proactive, preventative and predictive maintenance – is becoming a larger part of the team’s remit.

Repair

When repairs cannot be carried out by our station mechanics, they are normally passed to our Coastal Maintenance Team. 

These repairs are prioritised depending on the effect they have on the operation of a lifeboat or other equipment. 

They can involve main engine changes, radar or radio repairs or simply replacing tyres. Whatever the repair, the aim is to get the lifesaving equipment back into service as safely and quickly as possible.

Modifications

Changing operational requirements or perhaps obsolescence often means lifeboats and equipment need to be updated or modified.

Very often improvements are recommended by our lifeboat crews and, once design approval has been given, the modifications are then applied on the coast by our Coastal Maintenance Team.

These can involve extensive changes such as new 5-blade propellers on our Severn and Trent class lifeboats, fitting a new Automatic Identification System (AIS) to our all-weather lifeboats or a throttle restriction device on our ATVs.

Supporting the team

In addition to providing essential maintenance out on the coast, planned servicing and refits of our lifeboats are carried out at our All-weather Lifeboat Centre in Poole and Inshore Lifeboat Centre at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight.