Shannon class lifeboat

The Shannon is the latest class of all-weather lifeboat to join the RNLI fleet. She’s the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers, making her our most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat yet.

Hoylake’s Shannon class lifeboat, Edmund Hawthorn Micklewood 13-06, being recovered by her launch and recovery tractor, Roland Hough

Photo: Dave James

Hoylake’s Shannon class lifeboat, Edmund Hawthorn Micklewood 13-06, being recovered by her launch and recovery tractor, Roland Hough

Designed entirely in-house by a team of RNLI engineers, the RNLI harnessed cutting-edge technology to ensure this new lifeboat meets the demands of a 21st century rescue service, building on systems developed for her big sister, the Tamar class lifeboat.

The Shannon lifeboat was designed to be launched and recovered from a beach via a new faster and safer launch and recovery system and can also be launched from a slipway or lie afloat.

The Shannon will gradually replace our Mersey and Tyne class lifeboats, which are now nearing the end of their operational lives. Once rolled out, our entire all-weather lifeboat fleet will be capable of 25 knots, making our lifesaving service more efficient and effective than ever before.

The naming of our Shannon class lifeboat follows a tradition of naming lifeboats after rivers. But it's the first time an Irish river has been chosen. The River Shannon is 240 miles in length and is the longest river in Ireland.

Dungeness RNLI Mechanic Trevor Bunney

Photo: RNLI / Nigel Millard

Dungeness RNLI Mechanic Trevor Bunney
The manoeuvrability of a jet-driven boat is phenomenal – it really has to be seen to be believed. The launch and recovery equipment helps us get safely back to shore, no matter what the conditions.


Designed to revolutionise the way we save lives at sea, the Shannon class lifeboat is almost 50% faster than the Mersey with a top speed of 25 knots – a crucial factor when lives are at risk.

Two 650hp Scania engines help the Shannon to achieve this speed. In fact, she only needs 80% of her power to do so, meaning the engines don’t have to work so hard and should last longer.

Each engine has its own 1,370-litre fuel tank which can be refuelled at a rate of 200 litres a minute, meaning the lifeboat will never be out of action for long.


The Shannon is the first modern all-weather lifeboat propelled by waterjets instead of propellers, making her the most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat in the RNLI fleet.

Waterjets allow the Shannon to operate in shallow waters and be intentionally beached. And when precision really matters, such as operating alongside a stricken vessel or navigating around hazards, they come into their own.

At maximum power, the Shannon lifeboat pumps 1.5 tonnes of water each second from her waterjets.

Measuring just over 13m in length and weighing in at 18 tonnes, the Shannon is the smallest and lightest of our 25-knot lifeboats, meaning she can be launched straight off the beach via a new and improved launch and recovery system.

Designed in conjunction with Supacat Ltd, the new tractor-borne carriage allows a faster and safer launch and recovery time than the present Mersey system. It operates as a mobile slipway, which solves the unique challenge of transporting, launching and recovering the Shannon lifeboat over some of the most demanding beaches.

After being recovered from the beach bow first, a turntable in the carriage rotates the Shannon 180º ready for her next launch. Meaning casualties can be reached sooner and our volunteer launching crews are better protected.


The safety and welfare of our volunteer crews was a key priority in the development of the Shannon class lifeboat.

Her unique hull is designed to minimise slamming of the boat in heavy seas. And shock-absorbing seats further protect the crew from impact when powering through the waves.

An improved Systems and Information Management System (SIMS) allows the crew to operate and monitor many of the lifeboat's functions from the safety of their seats.

And as with all of our all-weather lifeboats, the Shannon class is designed to be inherently self-righting, returning to an upright position in the event of capsize.

The Shannon lifeboat carries comprehensive medical equipment including oxygen and full resuscitation kit, Entonox for pain relief, large responder bag and three different stretchers. The basket stretcher can be securely mounted on the wheelhouse floor.

Efficiency and effectiveness

The Shannon will provide lifesaving cover around the coast of the UK and Ireland for decades to come.

Although each Shannon class lifeboat is expected to have an operational lifetime of 25 years, the life expectancy of the Shannon's hull and wheelhouse is 50 years.

So after 25 years of service, each Shannon lifeboat will undergo a total refit where the machinery, systems and equipment will be renewed or replaced and the hull and wheelhouse reused – creating a new Shannon class lifeboat ready to save lives at sea for a further 25 years.

And the introduction of the Shannon means we have realised our plans for a 25-knot lifeboat fleet.

Once our Mersey and Tyne class lifeboats have been replaced, all of our all-weather lifeboats will be capable of 25 knots, enabling us to reach those in need even faster.

 Illustration of the RNLI Shannon class all-weather lifeboat


Lifeboat category:

Year introduced to the RNLI fleet:

Launch type:
Carriage, afloat or slipway


Survivor capacity:
Self-righting – 18
Non self-righting – 61

Maximum speed:
25 knots

Range / endurance:
250 nautical miles


Beam / width:

Draught / depth:

Displacement / weight:
18 tonnes (maximum)

Fuel capacity:
2,500 litres

2 x 13-litre Scania D13 13 litre inline 6 cylinder turbocharged and intercooled 650hp engines, propulsion via Twin Disc MG5086SC gearboxes and Hamilton HJ364 waterjets

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

Hull, deck and wheelhouse are constructed of composite materials; predominantly an epoxy resin film infusion glass sandwich construction, with carbon fibre in areas with high load

Number in fleet:
Currently 50 in total, 37 at stations and 13 either in build or repair

All lifeboats have a unique identification number.
The first part indicates the class. Shannon class lifeboats start with 13 because they are just over 13m in length.
The numbers after the dash refer to the build number. So the first Shannon built was given the number 13-01.
A build number with two digits indicates a hull constructed of fibre-reinforced composite (FRC). Three digits indicate a hull constructed of aluminium.

The integrated electronic Systems and Information Management System (SIMS) allows crew to monitor, operate and control many of the lifeboat’s systems directly from the safety of their seats.
It means they spend less time standing up and moving around the lifeboat and so are less prone to injury in rough weather.
SIMS provides access to: 

  • communications
    including VHF (very high frequency) radio, direction finder (DF) and intercom
  • navigation
    including radar, chart, differential global positioning system (DGPS), depth and speed 
  • machinery monitoring
    including engines, transmission, fuel and bilge.

The following lifeboat stations have a Shannon class all-weather lifeboat:

Dunmore East
Lough Swilly
Lytham St Annes
St Ives

Dungeness was the first station to receive a Shannon class lifeboat, The Morrell 13-02, in February 2014.

There are also two Shannon class lifeboats in our relief fleet.

Last updated January 2023

Key features

Systems and information Management system

Self righting

Righting and restarting

Navigation and communication