Inshore Lifeboat Centre

Based in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, our Inshore Lifeboat Centre (ILC) supplies and maintains over half of the lifeboats for all of our lifeboat stations, as well as our lifeguard units.

About the Inshore Lifeboat Centre

Within the ILC, a team of 70 highly skilled boatbuilders, fitters, electricians and solutionists work to build and maintain up to 50 boats each and every year. This includes inflatable B class and D class lifeboats, and lifeguards’ inshore rescue boats (IRBs).

Our technicians work across two buildings, supported by a team of office workers, store persons and apprentices. There’s a dedicated laminating shop, spray booth, machine shop and welding bay, specifically for the creation of our B class Atlantic inflatable lifeboats.

Opened in August 2018 by Princess Anne, the Inshore Lifeboat Heritage Centre offers an insight into the history behind the site. And the RNLI shop gives you an opportunity to take a memento from your day home with you. 

Book your free tour today

Although we are still building and maintaining lifeboats, due to the current coronavirus restrictions, we have had to stop all public tours at the ILC for the foreseeable future. Please watch this space for further information.

What you’ll experience on the tour

A free tour of the Inshore Lifeboat Centre lasts approximately 90 minutes, taking you through the different stages of build and refit that our lifeboats move through – including composite manufacture, rewiring and engine testing.

You’ll get to see:

  • the purpose-built manufacturing and refit of Atlantic lifeboats
  • our laminating shop, spray booth and welding bay
  • electrical build and refit, including three engine test tanks
  • the manufacturing and refit of D class lifeboats
  • our composite workshop
  • our rubber workshop, including CNC cutting machine
  • office facilities
  • the interactive visitor and heritage centre.

Building inshore lifeboats

To give you an idea of what you’ll enjoy on an ILC tour, here’s a quick insight into our inflatable lifeboat building process:

We purchase the hulls of inflatable D class lifeboats, inshore rescue boats, boarding boats and the X, XP and Y daughter boats carried on our all-weather lifeboats from an external supplier. We make the strips and the decks in-house.

We fit the hulls in an upstairs area within the Inshore Lifeboat Centre. Once complete, we install petrol tanks into the boats.

Meanwhile, we build the sponsons (the inflatable tube around the hull) downstairs in the solutionist bay – which got its name from all the glue kept here!

We use computers to create the sponsons, which we fit together before marrying them with the deck into the hulls. And finally, we install the electrics, which we also construct in-house.

We mould the basic hull of our rigid inflatable lifeboats in a purpose-built workshop at the Inshore Lifeboat Centre.

Then we install petrol tanks below deck and carefully fit the sponson to the rigid glass-fibre hull. Next, we fit out a console for the crew to sit, which incorporates a steering wheel, engine controls, batteries, electrics and instruments.

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

We do this at the station itself by sending a technician from the Inshore Lifeboat Centre. If we can’t do that, we arrange for an immediate replacement from the supporting relief fleet, as it’s crucial that a station is not without a boat for more than 24 hours.

How to find us

You’ll find the Inshore Lifeboat Centre at Clarence Road, East Cowes, Isle of Wight PO32 6HB. We’re easily reached from the mainland by regular ferry services.

Webcams at our Inshore Lifeboat Centre

We are currently experiencing some technical issues with our webcam feeds which is currently being investigated.

You'll find us at:

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

Call 01983 292521 to book a free tour today and see lifeboat building in action.

Booking lines open Mon – Fri 8am to 5pm.