Mersey class lifeboat

The Mersey class all-weather lifeboat was our first fast carriage-launched lifeboat.

Rhyl RNLI’s Mersey class lifeboat, Lil Cunningham 12-24, being launched by her launch and recovery tractor

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

Rhyl RNLI’s Mersey class lifeboat, Lil Cunningham 12-24, being launched by her launch and recovery tractor

Designed to be launched and recovered from a beach via a launch and recovery tractor and carriage, she can also be launched from a slipway or lie afloat.

The Mersey was introduced into the RNLI fleet in 1988 and the last Mersey class lifeboat was built in 1993.

Following a tradition of naming our modern lifeboats after rivers, the Mersey is named after the River Mersey, which stretches for 70 miles from Stockport to Liverpool Bay.

Coxswain and Mechanic Steve Warne, Hastings RNLI

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

Coxswain and Mechanic Steve Warne, Hastings RNLI
The Mersey is perfect for the beach launch and recovery conditions at Hastings. She can work way offshore, and with her shallow draught she is also happy in very shallow water.


With a top speed of 17 knots, the Mersey was our fastest all-weather lifeboat to be launched via a tractor-borne carriage when she was introduced to the fleet in 1988.

Her launch and recovery system made her ideal for our beach-launching lifeboat stations.


The Mersey’s propellers and rudders lie in partial tunnels set into the hull. The tunnels, along with the main and two bilge keels, provide excellent protection from damage in shallow water and during beach recovery or slipway operations.

She is designed for offshore searches and rescue in calm or rough seas and has the power to tow large vessels to safety.


As with all of our all-weather lifeboats, the Mersey class is inherently self-righting. Should she capsize in severe weather, she will automatically right herself.

She carries comprehensive medical equipment including oxygen and full resuscitation kit, Entonox for pain relief, large responder bag and three different stretchers.

Efficiency and effectiveness

The Mersey carries a small X boat, which is an inflatable unpowered daughter boat. The X boat is manually launched and allows the crew to row to areas the Mersey cannot reach.

Her wheelhouse is set well aft and the sheer line of her hull is flattened towards the bow. And her mast and aerials can be lowered so that she can fit into a boathouse.

Illustration of the RNLI Mersey class all-weather lifeboat



Lifeboat category:

Year introduced to the RNLI fleet:

Last built:

Launch type: 
Carriage, slipway or afloat


Survivor capacity:
Self-righting – 21
Non self-righting – 43

Maximum speed:
17 knots

Range / endurance:

140 nautical miles


Beam / width:

Draught / depth:

Displacement / weight:
14.3 tonnes (maximum)

Fuel capacity:
1,110 litres

2 x Caterpillar 3208T 10.4 litre V6 turbocharged 280hp diesel engines, propulsion via Twin Disc MG506-1 gearboxes, shafts and propellers

Steering positions:
2 – an elevated upper steering position for 360º views and one inside the wheelhouse

Aluminium or fibre-reinforced composite (FRC)

Number in fleet: 
Currently 12 in total, 7 at stations and 5 in repair or awaiting disposal

All lifeboats have a unique identification number.
The first part indicates the class. Mersey class lifeboats start with 12 because they are almost 12m in length.
The numbers after the dash refer to the build number. So the first Mersey built was given the number 12-001.
A build number with three digits indicates a hull constructed of aluminium. Two digits indicate a hull constructed of fibre-reinforced composite (FRC).

Communications and navigation

  • VHF (very high frequency) and MF (medium frequency) radio with digital selective calling (DSC)
  • VHF direction finder (DF)
  • global positioning system (GPS) with electronic chart system
  • radar.

The following 10 lifeboat stations have a Mersey class all-weather lifeboat:

Locations of Mersey class lifeboat stations:

New Quay

Bridlington was the first station to receive a Mersey class lifeboat, the Peggy and Alex Caird 12-001 in 1988. Silvia Burrell 12-37 was the last Mersey to be built in 1993 and has been stationed at Girvan since then.

There are also five Mersey class lifeboats in our relief fleet.

Last updated November 2022

Watch the Mersey lifeboat in action