Ship & Boat BuildingRescue, Search, SurveillanceA new era at Sheerness RNLI as state of the art Shannon...

A new era at Sheerness RNLI as state of the art Shannon lifeboat arrives

The long wait for the volunteer crew at Sheerness RNLI finally came to an end today when they welcomed their new Shannon class lifeboat to her moorings in Sheerness Dockyard.

The new Sheerness Shannon bedecked in flags is met by the station's Trent class lifeboat.
The new Sheerness Shannon bedecked in flags is met by the station’s Trent class lifeboat.

After a long delay as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the state-of-the-art Shannon class vessel arrived at her new permanent home of Sheerness on Wednesday 28 April 2021, after leaving the RNLI’s headquarters in Poole, Dorset on Tuesday.

The new £2.2 million lifeboat will transform the way Sheerness RNLI volunteers are able to save lives at sea. With a top speed of 25 knots and a range of 250 nautical miles, the self-righting lifeboat is ideally suited for offshore searches or equally for rescues in calmer shallower waters, such as the creeks and channels of the Medway.

The Shannon, which has been designed completely in-house by the RNLI, is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers such as those used by the station’s current Trent class lifeboat.

Twinned with two Scania 650hp engines it means the new lifeboat is not only massively powerful, but is also incredibly manoeuvrable in waters as shallow as one metre in depth – ideally suited for the varied conditions in which Sheerness RNLI operates.

The station’s new Shannon, number 13-38, Judith Copping Joyce replaces the previous Trent Class Lifeboat The George and Ivy Swanson which has served the station well for the last 26 years and holds lots of memories for her crew, a number of whom were actually RNLI volunteers when she first arrived at Sheerness.

The long-serving lifeboat will continue protecting local waters for a few weeks yet while the volunteers complete their training on the Judith Copping Joyce. Once done, the new Shannon will become operational.

The new lifeboat for Sheerness was made possible due to an incredible legacy left by Judith Copping Joyce who lived in Barnet, Hertfordshire. When she passed away in May 2017 she left her entire estate to the RNLI and her executors thought it would be a fitting tribute if a lifeboat could be named after her.

The arrival of a new lifeboat is usually greeted with great fanfare but due to Coronavirus restrictions the celebrations were kept low key. The new vessel left Poole on Monday, and moored up overnight at Newhaven RNLI on Tuesday afternoon evening.

Bedecked with flags, the Judith Copping Joyce was met off Queenborough on Wednesday afternoon by The George and Ivy Swanson and the Sheerness D class inshore lifeboat, Buster where thethree lifeboats pulled alongside each other for photographs. It is hoped that once Coronavirus restrictions are eased there will be an opportunity for local people to get a closer look at their new lifeboat.

Sheerness RNLI lifeboat coxswain Robin Castle said : ‘the ultra modern technology and design of the Shannon will enhance our lifesaving capability in the Thames and Medway Estuary waters.The crew will now undergo intense training on the new lifeboat, learning new and adapting existing techniques with the aim that the new all-weather lifeboat becomes operational in the next few months.’

The new Sheerness lifeboat is the latest Shannon class to be built at the state of the art facility in Poole, the All-Weather Lifeboat Centre (ALC). The construction of the new lifeboat started back in 2019 and has undertaken many stages of manufacturing at the ALC including the construction of the hull, combining the superstructure and the hull, paint and fit out, before finally arriving at Sheerness yesterday.

In 1969 the Royal National Lifeboat Institution decided to place a Lifeboat at Sheerness on evaluation, the Lifeboat was the “Ernest William and Elizabeth Ellen Hinde ”

In 1970 the Committee of Management decided to establish Sheerness as a permanent Lifeboat Station provided a satisfactory berth be made available.

Today Sheerness is one of the busiest Lifeboat stations within the RNLI, regularly launching over 100 times per year between both boats. The station is located within Sheerness Docks which does not have public access however our boats and crew can be seen at various public events in and around the Swale area.

Measuring just over 13m in length and weighing in at 18 tonnes, the Shannon is the smallest and lightest of current all-weather lifeboats.

The safety and welfare of the RNLI’s volunteer crews was a key priority in the development of the Shannon class lifeboat. The hull is designed to minimise slamming of the boat in heavy seas, while shock-absorbing seats further protect the crew from impact when powering through the waves. Also, 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.

As with all RNLI all-weather lifeboats, the Shannon class is designed to be inherently self-righting, returning to an upright position in the event of a capsize. The Shannon lifeboat also 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.

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