Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Lifesavers from RNLI’s busiest station move to temporary new home

Lifeboat crew from Tower RNLI have left their old station near Victoria Embankment and will operate from the new temporary base at HMS PRESIDENT – the Royal Naval Reserve’s training facility in London.

HMS PRESIDENT is situated in the shadow of Tower Bridge in the heart of London and the crew will be based there until the new station goes on service in April 2023.

The dedicated full-time Thames Commanders and volunteer crew will still maintain their vital 24/7 life-saving service on the Thames whilst the new permanent facilities are completed.

On their first full day at the station on Monday (January 9) the crew received three call outs for their assistance.

Credit – RNLI/Laura Lewis

The old station near Waterloo Bridge, now off service, has an E-class lifeboat and a relief boat especially designed for the Thames.

The floating station had been operational for 16 years – with parts of the pontoon dating back to the Victorian era when it was used by the Metropolitan Police.

The impressive history of the station began following the tragedy of the pleasure boat Marchioness in 1989 in which 51 people lost their lives after a collision with a dredger. An inquiry following the tragedy recommended the need for a dedicated rescue service on the Thames.

Since 2002 the Tower lifeboat crew have launched 9,669 times, saving 376 people across 16 miles of the tidal Thames.

The age and unique floating design of the current station has meant it has become structurally unfit for purpose.

Thanks to generous donations – including £3.5million from the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Officer’s Association following the sale of the Naval Club in Mayfair – Tower RNLI’s new station is nearing completion, ready to meet the challenges of keeping London safe for generations to come.

The new station, which will provide the crew and casualties facilities fit for the future, is due to be floated into position in March at the same site as the old station and is due to go on service in April.

Thames Commander Stephen King, whose father was based at HMS President in 1959 when he was serving in the Royal Navy, said: ‘Tower RNLI is a 24-hour station ready to launch within 90 seconds.

‘We are incredibly proud of our history as well as our hardworking and dedicated crew and feel that they deserve the best facilities we can offer when they are launching in difficult conditions.

‘The brand-new station will have much needed improvements such as private, purpose-built spaces for casualty care, a drying room for kit and a new area for visitors.

‘We are grateful to HMS PRESIDENT for allowing us to continue our vital work in the meantime and look forward to settling into our new facilities once they are complete.

‘We’d like to reassure people that we are continuing to run our lifesaving service as normal along the Thames – and remember if they get into trouble to ring 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’

Commander Greg Young, Commanding Officer of HMS PRESIDENT, said: ‘As neighbours and regular users of the Thames for waterborne training purposes, we are delighted to host staff and volunteers of Tower RNLI as they continue to provide their hugely important services while they prepare to move to their new facility in April.’

The current RNLI Tower station is due to be floated down the river later this month to make way for the new facilities.

It will be used by Thames Marine Services on the Monarch Pier, Erith, where it will be used as one of six electrical charging facilities on the Thames as part of Net Zero Marine Services.

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