E class lifeboat

Our E class inshore lifeboat is the fastest in the RNLI fleet and was specially designed for London’s busy River Thames.

Tower crew onboard their E class lifeboat, Hurley Burly E-07, on the River Thames

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

Tower crew onboard their E class lifeboat, Hurley Burly E-07, on the River Thames

With its powerful tidal currents, submerged debris and heavy traffic, the River Thames can be incredibly dangerous for those on and by the water and the E class lifeboat was designed to handle these river conditions.

Stationed at our two busiest lifeboat stations, Tower and Chiswick, the first generation of E class lifeboats – the Mk1 – was introduced into the fleet in 2002 and the second generation – the Mk2 – in 2012.

Helm Mick Nield, Tower RNLI

Photo: Jane Airey

Helm Mick Nield, Tower RNLI
Fast, tough and manoeuvrable, the E class is perfect for us here on the Thames. We can access the river’s shallow areas, the jets are intrinsically safe and the solid sponson makes it easy to retrieve people from the water. We have lots of deck space to carry out first aid. I always feel safe in the E class.


Speed is of the utmost importance on the River Thames in London. Many emergencies involve people in the water, at the mercy of the river’s cold temperatures, fast-flowing currents and busy traffic.

Our latest Mk2 E class lifeboat is capable of a top speed of 40 knots, making her the fastest lifeboat in the RNLI fleet.

E class lifeboats lie afloat at our Tower and Chiswick Lifeboat Stations, ready for the quickest launch possible, and can operate in both daylight and darkness.

And once at the scene, crew can pull casualties out of the water quickly from the working platform at the stern.


Waterjets give our E class lifeboat excellent manoeuvrability in the rapidly moving river flow.

The E class is the first modern lifeboat propelled by waterjets rather than propellers, allowing her to operate in shallow waters and giving greater control when alongside other craft and in confined waters.


No wheelhouse on the E class lifeboat means the crew are exposed to the elements at all times and rely on their protective kit to keep them safe and warm.

Crew safety, comfort and ergonomics have been improved onboard the Mk2 E class lifeboat. There are two height-adjustable jockey-style seats and a solid foam bench seat for the four crew members, although there’s room for five. These seats ease high impact and long-term fatigue, and provide stowage and access to the console.

The Mk2 E class also has improved deck space. The foredeck is long enough for a stretcher or crew to resuscitate casualties. The aft-deck open transom extension allows casualties to be recovered quickly, crew to re-board unassisted and provides protection over the waterjets.

The collar on the Mk2 E class is an innovative teardrop shape, aiding man overboard recovery.

The higher density foam increases robustness and the flattened bow means she can push casualty vessels or approach pontoons and quaysides bow on without damaging the collar.

Off-water, the collar has 10 detachable sections, making transport, maintenance and repairs easier.

Keeping the beam to 2.9m (without the collar) means we don’t need to notify the police and highway authorities when transporting the lifeboat in the RNLI-designed transport/storage cradle.

The medical equipment stowed aboard our E class lifeboats includes oxygen and full resuscitation kit, responder bag, multi-purpose ambulance pouch and stretcher if needed.

Towed inflatable rescue craft are strategically positioned along the River Thames and can be attached to the E class to accommodate a further 60 survivors if necessary. 

Efficiency and effectiveness

The green credentials of our Mk2 E class lifeboat include minimal wash, noise and fire risk, and bilge water is actively filtered via Wavestream filters.

Space has been maximised for stowage. The aft lockers are even removable for improved access to the engines. And modifications have also been made to improve endurance and reliability for heavy use.

Our Mk2 E class lifeboat was designed by RNLI engineers in conjunction with Liverpool-based expert RIB builder Marine Specialist Technology Ltd. Lifeboat crews were consulted throughout the project, giving their views on how the Mk1 E class could be improved.

Illustration of the RNLI E class inshore lifeboat


Lifeboat category:

Year introduced to the RNLI fleet:
Mk1 – 2002
Mk2 – 2011
Mk3 - 2020

Launch type:

Mk1 – 3
Mk2 – 4
Mk3 - 4

Survivor capacity:
Mk1 – 20
Mk2 – 20 including one stretcher-borne
Mk3 - 20 including one stretcher-borne

Maximum speed:
Mk1 – 33 knots
Mk2 – 40 knots
Mk3 - 40 knots

Range / endurance:
Mk1 – 4 hours at maximum speed
Mk2 – 3 hours at maximum speed
Mk3 - TBC

Mk1 – 9m
Mk2 – 10.3m
Mk3 - 11.05m

Beam / width:
Mk1 – 2.94m
Mk2 – 2.9m without collar; 3.5m with collar
Mk3 - 3.36m

Draught / depth:
Mk1 – 0.67m
Mk2 – 0.7m
Mk3 - TBC

Displacement / weight:
Mk1 – 3.86 tonnes
Mk2 – E-07: 5.9 tonnes; E-08 and E-09: target 5.4 tonnes
Mk3 - 7780kg

Fuel capacity:
Mk1 – 520 litres
Mk2 – 500 litres
Mk3 - 600 litres

Mk1 – 2 x Steyr 246 marine diesel engines - 240hp each at 4,100rpm - with propulsion from Hamilton waterjets
Mk2 – 2 x Volvo D6 435 5.5 litre inline 6-cylinder 435hp turbocharged/supercharged and intercooled diesel engines each with propulsion from Twin Disc MG5050SC gearboxes and Hamilton HJ274 waterjets
Mk3 -  2 x Volvo D6 440 5.5 litre inline 6-cylinder 440hp turbocharged and intercooled diesel engines, propulsion via ZF220 gearboxes and Hamilton HJ274 waterjets

Marine grade aluminium alloy with a closed-cell polythene foam collar.

Hull - composite.
Collar - closed-cell foam with fabric covering.

Hull – glass polyester composite.
Collar - closed-cell PU foam with fabric covering.

Number in fleet:
Mk1 – 2
Mk2 – 3
Mk3 - 1

All lifeboats have a unique identification number.
The first part indicates the class so E class lifeboats start with E.
The numbers after the dash refer to the build number. So the first E class built was given the number E-001.
Mk1 E class lifeboats have a 3-digit build number which indicates a metal hull. Mk2 and Mk3 E class lifeboats have a 2-digit build number to indicate a composite hull construction.

Communications and navigation

  • VHF (very high frequency) and police compatible radio
  • global positioning system (GPS)
  • radar
  • electronic chart
  • automatic identification system (AIS Category A) to meet Port Of London (PLA) regulations.

The E class lifeboat is unique to our two busiest lifeboat stations located on the River Thames in LondonTower and Chiswick.

Five E class lifeboats are currently shared between the two stations. These include 2 Mk1 E class lifeboats and 3 Mk2 E class lifeboats.

The first Mk2 lifeboat, Hurley Burley E-07, went into service in 2012.

Last updated November 2022

Watch our E class lifeboat in action