Severn class lifeboat

Our Severn class lifeboat is the largest lifeboat in the RNLI fleet. She was developed in the early 1990s and introduced into the fleet in 1996.

Kirkwall RNLI’s Severn class lifeboat, Margaret Foster 17-13, powering through the sea

Photo: Terry Mooney

Kirkwall RNLI’s Severn class lifeboat, Margaret Foster 17-13, powering through the sea

As an all-weather lifeboat, the Severn can take on the worst sea conditions and comes into her own on long offshore searches and rescues.

She is designed to lie afloat, either at deep-water moorings or alongside at a berth.

Following a tradition of naming our modern lifeboats after rivers, the Severn is named after the Severn River – the longest river in the UK.

The Severn class is a fine sea-keeping lifeboat – excellent for the kind of offshore, long jobs we sometimes face. She can handle the toughest weather. She’s very manoeuvrable too, which is essential for situations where you need to be alongside a casualty.


When lives are at risk out at sea, time is of the essence. With a top speed of 25 knots and a range of 250 nautical miles, our Severn class lifeboat can reach casualties fast in calm or rough seas. Factors crucial to our plans for a faster and more efficient 25-knot all-weather lifeboat fleet.

Her power also means she can tow large vessels out of danger.


She may be the largest lifeboat in the RNLI fleet, but our Severn class lifeboat is very agile.

In addition to her twin marine diesel engines, the Severn lifeboat is fitted with a hydraulic-powered bow thruster for improved manoeuvrability – essential for when the lifeboat needs to come alongside a casualty.

Her power can be applied quickly so that she can be manoeuvred out of tight situations.

And her propellers and rudders lie in partial tunnels created by the twin bilge keels, which provide excellent protection from damage in shallow water.


The Severn class lifeboat features one of the first hard chine (angled) hull designs for the RNLI. She has the same geometric hull shape as our Trent class lifeboat and the low line of her hull makes recovering casualties much easier.

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

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

Efficiency and effectiveness

The Severn lifeboat carries a small Y boat, which is an inflatable daughter boat, complete with a 15hp outboard engine. This small boat is ideal for rescues near rocks and shallow waters.

The Y boat can be launched using the Severn’s integral crane or manually, depending on the fit out of the Severn lifeboat.

The Severn also carries a portable salvage pump in a watertight container which can be taken onboard boats taking on water to try and save them from sinking.

The last Severn class lifeboat was built in 2004 and the lifeboats now undergo a regular condition-based maintenance.

Illustration of the RNLI Tamar class all-weather lifeboat


Lifeboat category:

Year introduced to the RNLI fleet:

Last built:

Launch type:


Survivor capacity:
Self-righting – 28
Non self-righting – 124

Maximum speed:
25 knots

Range / endurance:
250 nautical miles


Beam / width:

Draught / depth:

Displacement / weight:
42 tonnes (maximum)

Fuel capacity:
5,600 litres

2 x Caterpillar 3412 TA marine diesel engines; 1,250hp each at 2,300rpm
2 x MTU 10V2000 M94 engines; 1,600hp at 2,450rpm

Hull – fibre-reinforced composite (FRC) with single-skin section below the chine and 100mm thick foam-cored sandwich above.
Deck and superstructure – 25mm foam-cored sandwich.

Number in fleet:
35 at stations and 9 in the relief fleet

All lifeboats have a unique identification number.
The first part indicates the class. Severn class lifeboats start with 17 because they are just over 17m in length.
The numbers after the dash refer to the build number. So the first Severn built was given the number 17-01.
A build number with two digits indicates a hull constructed of fibre-reinforced composite (FRC). Three digits indicate a hull constructed of aluminium.

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 35 lifeboat stations have a Severn class all-weather lifeboat:

Aran Islands
Barra Island
Rosslare Harbour
St Peter Port
St Mary’s

Harwich was the first station to receive a Severn class lifeboat, the Albert Brown 17-03 in 1996. Margaret Joan and Fred Nye 17-46 was the last Severn to be built and entered our relief fleet in 2004.

There are also nine Severn class lifeboats in our relief fleet.

Watch the Severn lifeboat in action

Will you help save our Severns?

The Severn is our biggest, most robust all-weather lifeboat. Our crews have relied on her for more than 20 years. She can't go on forever but, with your help, we can give her a new lease of life.

A programme of life-extension refits will give Severn crews a range of crucial new equipment, including many safety enhancements. The new gear will be housed in the original hull, making the craft fit for another 2 decades of lifesaving.

Extending the life of a Severn costs much less than designing and building a new lifeboat from scratch, but we still need your help to fund it. By giving to our Save Our Severns Appeal, you’re helping to ensure these lifeboats can carry on bringing crews, and the people they rescue, safely home.


Key features

Systems and information Management system

Self righting

Righting and restarting

Navigation and communication