The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) have built their inshore lifeboats at the charity’s Inshore Lifeboat Centre in East Cowes (Isle of Wight) since 1963. 55 years on, the facility is still going strong, producing up to 50 inshore lifeboats every year.

A team of 70 highly skilled people work hard to build, and refit, the charity’s fleet of inshore lifeboats. An inshore lifeboat is completed every 59 hours at the facility: either built from new, or refitted to ensure it has the latest technology onboard and meets the high specifications required by the lifesaving charity for its volunteer crews.

The Inshore Lifeboat Centre is where the charity builds its D class lifeboats, as well as its fleet of B class Atlantic lifeboats. Together, these two classes of inshore lifeboat were involved in approximately 60% of the charity’s total 8,436 lifeboat launches last year.

In 2017, the B class and D class lifeboats produced at the Inshore Lifeboat Centre launched over 5000 times and helped more than 4,400 people.

The D class lifeboat first joined the RNLI fleet in 1963, the year that the RNLI started building their inshore lifeboats at the Inshore Lifeboat Centre. It has continued to evolve over the years to meet the changes in demand and technology. With a top speed of 25 knots, the D class can endure 3 hours at sea at this speed on search and rescue missions – a crucial factor when lives are at risk.

The D class is a highly manoeuvrable lifeboat, able to access areas inaccessible to the charity’s bigger, all-weather lifeboats; such as close to cliffs, rocks and inside caves.

The RNLI’s Inshore Lifeboat Centre also builds and refits the charity’s B class Atlantic 85 lifeboats. The Atlantic 85 lifeboat is one of the fastest boats in the RNLI’s lifeboat fleet, with a top speed of 35 knots. Although it is an inshore lifeboat and is designed to operate in shallower water, the B class lifeboat can handle fairly challenging open sea conditions: it’s capable of operating in force 7 near gale winds in daylight, and force 6 at night.

The Atlantic 85 is the third generation of B class Atlantic lifeboat. The first B class Atlantic lifeboat in the RNLI fleet was the Atlantic 21, which was introduced to the charity’s lifeboat fleet in 1971 and it too was built and maintained at the ILC. The RNLI collaborated with Atlantic College in South Wales, where these rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) were first developed. The next generation of Atlantic lifeboat was the Atlantic 75 which was introduced in 1993, with the Atlantic 85 introduced to the RNLI’s fleet in 2005.

The Inshore Lifeboat Centre is also where the charity builds, fits out, and maintains its fleet of inshore rescue boats, used by the RNLI’s lifeguards who patrol on more than 240 beaches around the UK.

A sponson is fitted to an Atlantic 85. Image: RNLI/Nathan Williams.

Glyn Ellis MBE, ILC Operations Manager for the RNLI said, ‘We’re very proud of what we do here at the RNLI, and what we achieve here at the Inshore Lifeboat Centre. Our inshore lifeboats are the workhorses of the RNLI, and were involved in approximately two thirds of the RNLI’s lifeboat launches last year. It’s essential that we build them to a high standard, and efficiently, in order to keep our volunteers safe when saving lives at sea.’

A lot of work goes into making an inshore lifeboat, and it is all carried out on site at the Inshore Lifeboat Centre.

You can now see the work that goes into a lifesaving boat for yourself, by visiting the RNLI’s new Visitor and Heritage Centre at the site and going on one of the free tours offered by the charity.

The Visitor and Heritage Centre at the ILC was opened by HRH Princess Anne on 6 August 2018. You can find out more about the Visitor and Heritage Centre and how to book a free tour of the ILC here:

RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone Jennifer Clough, RNLI Press Officer on 01202 336789 or, or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789