The first lifeboat service on the River Thames was launched today by Transport Minister John Speller MP. During the launching ceremony, three of the Tiger Fast Response Lifeboats led a flotilla of speeding boats under Tower Bridge which had been raised for the occasion. The other boats in the flotilla included a Police launch, a Coastguard cutter, a PLA launch, a Fireboat and a Port Health Authority launch.

The Flotilla under Tower Bridge

'E'class Tiger Marine Fast Response Craft

Coastguard Cutter

Fire Boat

Police Launch

Four lifeboat stations have been set up at Gravesend, Tower Pier, Chiswick Pier and Teddington. The first three stations will be permanantly manned to provide an immediate response to emergencies whilst the fourth station at Teddington, will be manned by volunteers in the same way as other RNLI stations around our coast.

The three full time lifeboats are required to launch within one minute of being alerted and to reach any point on the River between Canvey Island and Teddington within 15 minutes. To meet this requirement, these lifeboat stations will be manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with two of the three-person crew at each station being full-time with the third being a volunteer. Over 150 volunteers have enlisted as crew. The boats being used at these stations are 'E' class Tiger Marine fast response craft fitted with waterjet engines and capable of speeds up to 40 knots. They have aluminium alloy hulls with closed cell foam collars. The advantage of waterjets is that they do not have propellers that could become damaged by floating debris.

A standard RNLI 'D' class inshore boat is being used at Teddington.

Three station managers have been appointed for Gravesend, Tower and Chiswick. They are Ian Dunkley at Gravesend, Janet Kelly at Tower and Wayne Bellamy at Chiswick. All three have taken up their positions.

The MCA will co-ordinate any rescue operation from a Port of London Authority operations room at the Thames Barrier and the existing resources of the Police, the Fire Service and the PLA will continue to be utilised in emergency situations.

This service has been set up in response to the findings of the Thames Safety Inquiry into the collision between the pleasure cruiser 'Marchioness' and the dredger'Bowbelle' in 1989 in which 51 people lost their lives.

For further information about Safety on the River Thames page see River Thames - Policing and River Safety

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