Inshore Lifeboat Centre

Our Inshore Lifeboat Centre (ILC) at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight supports our lifeboat stations and lifeguard units on all aspects of inshore lifeboat supply and maintenance. Just like our lifeboat crews, their work and attention to detail is vital for saving lives at sea.
The RNLI Inshore Lifeboat Centre at Cowes on the Isle of Wight

Photo: Glyn Ellis

The RNLI Inshore Lifeboat Centre at Cowes on the Isle of Wight

Here, the building and maintenance of our inshore inflatable lifeboats takes place. These include the B class and D class lifeboats and our lifeguards' inshore rescue boats (IRBs).

The site houses the production and maintenance of the B class Atlantic rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) in a much larger, separate building. This facility incorporates a dedicated laminating shop, spray booth, machine shop and welding bay.

The work involved is very skilled and a team of over 70 boatbuilders, fitters, electricians and solutionists are employed here, including apprentices and supporting office and stores persons.

Inshore lifeboat construction and fitting out

Inflatable boats

The hulls of inflatable D class lifeboats, inshore rescue boats, boarding boats and those of the X, XP and Y daughter boats carried on our all-weather lifeboats are brought in from an external supplier. The strips and the deck are made in-house.

The hulls are fitted into the boat in an upstairs area within the Inshore Lifeboat Centre which, once complete, have the petrol tanks installed into them.

Meanwhile, the sponsons (the inflatable tube around the hull) are built downstairs in the Solutionist Bay, which got its name thanks to all the glue kept here! In the Solutionist Bay, computers are used to create the sponsons, which are fitted together before being ‘married’ with the deck into the hulls. Finally, the electrics are installed, which are also constructed in-house.

Engineers assembling a D class lifeboat at the Inshore Lifeboat Centre

Rigid inflatable boats

The basic hull of our rigid inflatable B class Atlantic lifeboat is moulded in a purpose-built workshop at the Inshore Lifeboat Centre.

Petrol tanks are installed below deck and the sponson is carefully fitted to the rigid glass-fibre hull. A console for the crew to sit on is fitted out, which incorporates a steering wheel, engine controls, batteries, electrics and instruments. 

Engineer working on the hull of an inshore B class Atlantic lifeboat at the Inshore Lifeboat Centre

Repairs and overhauls

Any lifeboat that encounters damage from being out on a shout or a training exercise needs to be repaired straight away.

This will be carried out at the station by an appropriate technician sent from the Inshore Lifeboat Centre. If for any reason this can’t be done, an immediate replacement will be arranged from the supporting relief fleet, as it’s crucial that a station is not without a boat for more than 24 hours.

Each inshore lifeboat has regular service overhauls to keep them in top condition. Depending on the class, each lifeboat also has an annual or biannual refit, while B class Atlantic lifeboats receive regular refits every 4 years.

Mechanic working on an outboard engine at the Inshore Lifeboat Centre

Come visit!

Visitors are always welcome to come and see the work at our Inshore Lifeboat Centre firsthand. We are also pleased to host group visits by schools and other organisations.

Visits are by appointment only and can be made by contacting the centre on 01983 292521.

How to find us

Our Inshore Lifeboat Centre is located on Clarence Road, East Cowes, Isle of Wight PO32 6HB and is easily reached from the mainland by regular ferry services.

Get directions using Google Maps.

We look forward to welcoming you soon!

Webcams at our Inshore Lifeboat Centre

Take a peek inside our Inshore Lifeboat Centre.

Choose a webcam:

The webcam images at our Inshore Lifeboat Centre are updated daily between 12.45pm and 1pm. You may need to refresh this web page (Ctrl+F5 on a keyboard) to view the most recent images.

Ground floor: B class Atlantic lifeboats

ILC webcam 1

Top floor: B class Atlantic lifeboats

ILC webcam

Solutionist Rubber Bay for D class lifeboats

ILC webcam

Solutionist Rubber Bay for D class lifeboats

ILC webcam 3 position 2

Solutionist Rubber Bay for D class lifeboats

ILC webcam 3 position 3

Console and Electrical Workshop for B class Atlantic lifeboats

ILC webcam 4 position 1

B class Roll bar, Console and Electrical Workshop

ILC webcam 4 position 2

Sponsons being made and repaired in the Solutionist Bay

ILC webcam 5

A brief history of our Inshore Lifeboat Centre

1913

The RNLI has used shipyards at Cowes since 1913 when SE Saunders was contracted to build a number of pulling and sailing lifeboats.

1930

The site of the present Inshore Lifeboat Centre was first used by the RNLI in 1930 as stores and offices for overseers responsible for lifeboats being built at the yards of JS White and Groves & Gutteridge in Cowes and William Osborne at Littlehampton.

The RNLI's timber stock for building and repairing lifeboats also used to be on the site.

1963

Inflatable inshore D class lifeboats were first introduced into the RNLI fleet in June 1963 to cope with a growing number of people who were using the sea for leisure purposes, getting into difficulty close to the shore.

1967

By 1967, the yard had begun repair and maintenance work for inflatable lifeboats and outboard engines. More buildings and land had been acquired as the fleet of inshore lifeboats increased.

1972

In 1972, the first B class rigid inflatable lifeboat – the Atlantic 21 – was produced at the Inshore Lifeboat Centre.

1993

In 1993 work commenced on the next generation of B class lifeboats – the Atlantic 75.

2004

A purpose-built outboard engine workshop was built in 2004 where engines are serviced and inversion-proofed, a facility envied by many who visit the site.

2005

The larger and more powerful third generation of B class lifeboat – the Atlantic 85 – was introduced into the fleet in 2005.

2008

In 2008, the centre expanded to accommodate a new lean manufacturing assembly line to speed up production, increase capacity and make it more efficient, while allowing continuous improvement.

Visit us

RNLI Inshore Lifeboat Centre
Clarence Road
East Cowes
Isle of Wight
PO32 6HB

Call 01983 292521 to make an appointment.