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Tamar class lifeboat

When our Tamar class lifeboat was introduced into the RNLI fleet in 2005, she was our most sophisticated and safest lifeboat of the time.

The Lizard’s Tamar class lifeboat, Rose 16-20, at sea

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

The Tamar lifeboat was the first to be fitted with an integrated electronic Systems and Information Management System (SIMS), allowing the crew to operate the all-weather lifeboat from the safety of their shock-absorbing seats.

When crashing through the waves, the Tamar’s pioneering seat design absorbs most of the energy on impact, reducing the strain on crew members’ backs.

The Tamar is designed to be launched from a slipway – her mast and aerials can be lowered to fit inside a boathouse – and she can also lie afloat.

Tamar class lifeboats have gradually replaced some of our Tyne class lifeboats that have reached the end of their operational lives as part of our plans for a faster and more efficient 25-knot all-weather lifeboat fleet.

Following a tradition of naming our modern lifeboats after rivers, the Tamar is named after the Tamar River, which is 50 miles long and forms a natural boundary between Devon and Cornwall.

Mechanic Steve Lowe, Tenby RNLI

Photo: RNLI / Nigel Millard

Tenby mechanic, Steve Lowe
The crew are very impressed. She’s a robust and versatile lifeboat that gets to casualties quicker and keeps the crew safe.


The Tamar was our first lifeboat to be fitted with SIMS - an RNLI innovation in marine engineering that has transformed the way our crews operate their lifeboats, dramatically improving their safety.

SIMS, which stands for Systems and Information Management System (SIMS), allows the crew to control and monitor many of the lifeboat’s functions without having to leave the safety of their seats.

When a lifeboat hits a large wave at full speed, it’s like hitting a concrete wall. The Tamar’s bespoke shock-absorbing seats, pioneered by RNLI engineers, enhance crew comfort and safety. They also incorporate essential controls such as throttles, joystick and the trackball pod to operate SIMS.

There is belted seating for 10 survivors in an area below the wheelhouse, which includes an escape hatch. In total, the lifeboat can carry 118 survivors.

As with all RNLI all-weather lifeboats, the Tamar class is inherently self-righting, returning to an upright position in the event of capsize.

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


Capable of a top speed of 25 knots, the Tamar class lifeboat can reach casualties much faster than the Tyne, the lifeboat she’s been replacing.  

The Tamar has a towing force sufficient enough to pull most boats and prevent larger vessels from running aground.


The Tamar lifeboat is very agile for her size.

In addition to her twin engines, the Tamar is fitted with a hydraulic-powered bow thruster for improved manoeuvrability.

Her power can be applied quickly, meaning she can be manoeuvred out of tight situations.

The Tamar’s propellers and rudders lie in partial tunnels set into the hull that, along with steel-lined main and bilge keels, provide excellent protection from damage in shallow water or slipway operations.

Efficiency and effectiveness

The Tamar carries a Y boat, an inflatable powered daughter boat housed under the aft deck, which can be deployed from a hinged door in the transom.

The Y boat has a 15hp outboard engine and is used in moderate conditions to access areas the Tamar cannot reach.

The Tamar also carries a portable salvage pump in a watertight container to assist boats taking on water.

With her versatility, agility, speed and crew safety innovations, our Tamar class lifeboat remains one of the most advanced lifeboats in the RNLI fleet. Lifesaving features that have paved the way forward for her successor – the Shannon class lifeboat.

Illustration of the RNLI Severn class all-weather lifeboat


Lifeboat category:

Year introduced to the RNLI fleet:

Last built:

Launch type:
Slipway or afloat


Survivor capacity:
Self-righting – 44
Non self-righting – 118

Maximum speed:
25 knots

Range / endurance:
250 nautical miles


Beam / width:

Draught / depth:

Displacement / weight:
32 tonnes (maximum)

Fuel capacity:
4,600 litres

2 x Caterpillar C18 18 litre inline 6 cylinder turbocharged and intercooled 1,050hp diesel engines, propulsion via ZF2000 V drive gearboxes, shafts and propellers

Steering positions:
4 - 2 elevated upper steering positions for 360º views and 2 inside the wheelhouse

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

Number in fleet:
Currently 27 in total, 25 at stations and 2 in repair

All lifeboats have a unique identification number.
The first part indicates the class. Tamar class lifeboats start with 16 because they are just over 16m in length.
The numbers after the dash refer to the build number. So the first Tamar built was given the number 16-01.
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) and MF (medium 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 23 lifeboat stations have a Tamar class all-weather lifeboat:

Kilmore Quay
Sennen Cove 
Shoreham Harbour
St Davids
St Helier
The Mumbles
The Lizard
Walton and Frinton

Tenby was the first station to receive a Tamar class lifeboat, the 16-02 Haydn Miller, in June 2006. Roy Barker IV 16-27 was the last Tamar to be built and has been stationed at The Mumbles since October 2013.

There are also four Tamar class lifeboats in our relief fleet.

Last updated November 2022

Watch the Tamar lifeboat in action