Inshore rescue boat

Inshore rescue boats (IRBs) are primarily used by RNLI lifeguards so that they can reach casualties in the surf, fast.

Perranporth Beach lifeguards heading into the surf in their inshore rescue boat

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

Perranporth Beach lifeguards heading into the surf in their inshore rescue boat

This small inflatable boat tends to be operated by two people: one focused on controlling the craft, the other focused on finding and aiding casualties.

A few of our lifeboat stations also use an inshore rescue boat.

RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Elin Jones

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Elin Jones
The inshore rescue boat helps us get to multiple casualties in a short space of time. I know I can depend on the boat’s rugged design to get us from the beach through the surf when the seconds are precious.

In addition to the inshore rescue boats located at some of our lifeguarded beaches, the following five lifeboat stations have an inshore rescue boat: 


Criccieth was the first station to receive an inshore rescue boat in 2009.  


When someone is in trouble at the beach, every second counts.

The RNLI inshore rescue boat can be launched quickly and can power through the surf at a top speed of 26 knots.

She is launched and recovered from a trolley or trailer. The trolley can be pulled into the surf by hand, saving vital seconds. She can also be towed to a suitable launching site using an all-terrain vehicle or patrol vehicle.


Inshore rescue boats are ideal for rescues in the surf, close to shore, rocks and cliffs and even inside caves.

The boat is light enough for two people to launch but sturdy enough for use in heavy surf conditions as well.

She copes well with the shallow waters of estuaries and complements the conventional lifeboats at our lifeboat stations.

The craft is made from hypalon-coated fabric, an extremely durable synthetic rubber. The fabric is tensioned by a separate keelson tube fitted under removable floorboards. This forms a shallow V section that allows the inshore rescue boat to maintain speed and manoeuvrability through a wide range of difficult conditions.


The inshore rescue boat’s 30hp outboard has a propeller guard to protect swimmers from the propeller blades and to prevent any sea debris fouling the blades.

Footstraps for the crew and driver form part of the moulding that is in place between the sponsons and the inflatable keel.

RNLI lifeguards carry a rescue tube on their inshore rescue boat, which is strapped to the sponson.

A basic first aid kit is carried onboard and a grab bag containing swim fins and survivor’s lifejacket.

The inshore rescue boat has two stowage bags in the port and starboard sections of the bow carrying a mooring rope, flares, night vision kit and a searchlight.

Efficiency and effectiveness

First approved for surf lifesaving in 1979 in New Zealand, inshore rescue boats are now in use worldwide.

They were introduced into the RNLI fleet in 2001 – the year we introduced our lifeguarding service – and in 2009 at selected lifeboat stations. The boats are also used by our Flood Rescue Team.

Our inshore rescue boats are built and maintained at our Inshore Lifeboat Centre at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

Illustration of the RNLI inshore rescue boat

Lifeboat category:

Year introduced to the RNLI fleet:
2001 to RNLI lifeguards
2009 to RNLI lifeboat stations

Launch type:
Trailer / trolley


Survivor capacity:

Maximum speed:
26 knots

Range / endurance:
20 nautical miles


Beam / width:

Displacement / weight:

Fuel capacity:
20 litres

30hp outboard with propeller guard

Hypalon-coated fabric

Number in fleet:
Currently 25 on lifeguarded beaches and 5 at lifeboat stations

All lifeboats have a unique identification number.
The first part indicates the class so inshore rescue boats start with A for Arancia after the original New Zealand manufacturer.
The numbers after the dash refer to the build number. So the first RNLI inshore rescue boat built was given the number A-01.

RNLI lifeguards and lifeboat crew use a handheld VHF (very high frequency) radio to maintain communication with the Coastguard and casualty.

Watch our inshore rescue boat in action