Lerwick lifeboat station will be one of the first five across the UK that will see an overhaul of its Severn class lifeboats so they can continue saving lives at sea for another 25 years.
The Severn, the largest and most powerful class of lifeboat, entered service in 1996 with an operational lifespan of 25 years; and now the 44 vessels in operation are approaching retirement age and are due to come off service.
However, the charity’s expert in-house engineering team, working in partnership with academic and industry experts, has established that the lifeboats’ hulls can continue operational service for another 25 years via a life extension upgrade.
Additionally the Severn’s wheelhouse will be redesigned and a wide range of upgrades and extra safety features added, ensuring the vessels can operate safely and effectively for another 25 years.
Nick Fenwick, project manager for the RNLI’s Severn life extension programme, said: “From shock-mitigating seats for the crew, to new survivor space seating for casualties and a new daughter craft that can be launched quickly for rescuing casualties in shallow waters or close to rocks, the life extension upgrades will ensure our Severn class lifeboats are ready to save lives at sea for another 25 years.
“The upgrades will bring the technology and systems onboard the Severn class lifeboats right up to date. A key upgrade will be the installation of the Systems and Information Management System, also known as SIMS.”
The average anticipated cost of each life extension upgrade is £1.25 million, significantly less than the cost of designing and building a brand-new class of lifeboat to replace the Severn.
Angus Watson, engineering and supply director, added: “I am so excited to announce our plans to extend the operational life of our Severn class lifeboats.
“Our Severns are often located in the more remote locations across the UK and Ireland, where the crews are often required to sail out longer distances in the most challenging sea conditions.”
Work is already underway on the first vessel to receive its life extension upgrade with all work on the initial seven vessels from five stations taking place at the RNLI’s all-weather Lifeboat Centre in Poole, Dorset.