The latest vessel made by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to enter service is the Shannon class – an innovative design incorporating a host of cutting-edge technology. Luke Blissett from the RNLI reveals: “The Shannon is the ﬁrst RNLI lifeboat to be powered by water jets, making it the most agile lifeboat in the ﬂeet.” The Shannon is self-righting so even if it were to capsize in extreme conditions it could get itself out of trouble. This ability is achieved by having a watertight superstructure that makes the boat unstable when it is upside down.
“The Shannon’s hull has been designed to minimize slamming of the boat in heavy seas,” Blissett continues: “The crew sit in shock absorbing seats making it safer and more comfortable for our volunteer crews.” The hull is made from composites – a combination of glass and carbon ﬁbres and epoxy resins for maximum strength while remaining lightweight. Once the molding is completed with all the internal strengthening structures attached, the engines and equipment are installed. The deck and superstructure moulding are the last features to be ﬁtted.
The water jet propulsion replaces the conventional propeller with a high-capacity pump that expels water from the rear for propulsion thrust and more maneuverability than previous lifeboats. “This increased maneuverability helps when precision matters, such as when operating alongside a stricken vessel,” Blissett explains. The jets are less prone to damage and allow the lifeboat to operate in shallower waters. Capable of speeds of 25 knots (46 kilometres/29 miles per hour), the Shannon is 50 per cent faster than the models it replaces.
Beyond the boat’s advanced structure, the RNLI has also made a full commitment to electronics on its next-gen lifeboats. The conventional steering wheel has disappeared, replaced by an electronic tiller arm placed in the armrest of the coxswain’s seat. Facing them are displays that show all the required navigation, collision avoidance and monitoring information, and the remaining crew of ﬁve have similar displays.
“We will build at least 50 Shannon-class lifeboats over the next ten years,” Blissett concludes. “Once the rollout is complete the RNLI will have achieved its aim of operating a lifeboat ﬂ eet around the coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland consisting entirely of lifeboats capable of 25 knots and able to reach out to 100 miles [160 kilometers] offshore in all weathers.”
On board the Shannon
Discover what features make the latest RNLI vessel one of the most advanced to ever patrol the seas
The deck is lowered in this area so the crew can quickly aid survivors in the water.
Water jets The Shannon is the ﬁrst RNLI
lifeboat with water jet propulsion to give excellent manoeuvrability combined with shallow draft.
Designed by Supacat, this bespoke tractor is powered by a 331kW (444hp) engine helping to launch the boat in no more than ten minutes.
Two 485kW (650hp) diesel engines make the Shannon one of the fastest lifeboats in service.
A small crane arm swings out to enable casualties to be lifted out of the water.
Advanced displays in the cabin enable the crew to monitor and control the lifeboat to avoid collisions.
Made mainly of epoxy resin, it’s shaped to smooth the ride in rough seas and strong enough to withstand heavy impacts from waves.