Belfast Telegraph

Lifeboat heroes buoyed as £1.5m vessel on way

By Rebecca Black

Northern Ireland is to get one of the world's most advanced lifeboats, it can be revealed.

Newcastle RNLI station in Co Down has been told that it will receive a Shannon class lifeboat around 2018.

The news came this week following the RNLI's coastal review and is part of the five-year plan for the station.

Newcastle currently has two boats – an inshore D class lifeboat and the more powerful all-weather Mersey class lifeboat.

The latter, named The Eleanor And Bryant Girling, has been in service since 1993.

The Shannon class will be a step up for the life-saving team in Newcastle.

Based on a Camarc Pilot vessel design, with a fibre reinforced composite hull and powered by twin water jets, it has a top speed of 27 knots.

However, at a cost of £1.5 million, it will require significant fundraising.

It will also need a bigger boat house than the Newcastle station currently has.

No date has been set for Newcastle RNLI receiving the powerful new lifeboat, but it is understood that it will be in four years' time when The Eleanor And Bryant Girling is finally retired.

Kingsley Singer, lifeboat operations manager in Newcastle, said the crews were very excited.

"Every four or five years the RNLI do a coastal review and they look at all aspects of the need for a lifeboat and type of lifeboat in the particular area," he explained.

"It was Newcastle's turn last November for the review board. The crews are very proud in this station, so we were anxious about what the board would recommend.

"The crews were delighted to find out that the decision was that all-weather lifeboating would continue to be run from Newcastle, and that when the existing Mersey class is retired in about four years, it will be replaced by the RNLI's latest class of lifeboat.

"Apart from all the state-of-the-art electronics, the Shannon is nearly twice as fast, which will enable us to get to a casualty in essentially half the time."

The Newcastle all-weather boat covers a large area including Strangford Lough, Carlingford Lough and up to Donaghadee, where the next all-weather boat is.

"We operate from the bar of Strangford down to Carlingford Lough," he said. "The incidents for the all-weather boat go right through the year, mainly call-outs from fishing boats out of Kilkeel or Ardglass that have maybe got into difficulty.

"There's usually around six or seven incidents a year. One of the last calls we had was a fishing boat that had lost power and was drifting towards rocks.

"So, it was necessary for the all-weather boat to get a line to them and keep them safe.

"With weather forecasting being so sophisticated now, most (boats) know when to stay in, but incidents do happen."

Newcastle RNLI station is one of the oldest in Ireland.

The first station recorded there was in 1854. It was set up after a number of shipwrecks.

The Shannon class lifeboat is the latest model being used by the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI). It has been in use since spring 2013. It is named after the River Shannon and is the first RNLI lifeboat to be named after an Irish river. Just three stations in the UK currently have one. Newcastle will be one of the first stations in Ireland to get one.

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