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Dungeness has been chosen as the home for the first Shannon class RNLI lifeboat in the south east, following an RNLI coast review.
A £1.5m Shannon class lifeboat and new launch and recovery equipment, costing around £850,000, will be paid for by an extraordinarily generous legacy gift from Mrs Barbara Morrell. She left the RNLI a legacy worth over £6 million, requesting that it be left to fund a lifeboat for Kent, as she came from Bromley in Kent.
Mrs Morrell, who died in 2009, aged 95, her late husband and other members of their family had a great admiration and respect for the RNLI and its volunteer crews. She helped with collections and supported local RNLI fundraising functions. Those close to the couple say it was always their intention to leave a gift to the lifesaving organisation.
RNLI Income and Legacy Manager Sue Fernley said: ‘This is a particularly generous gift for which we are truly grateful – as we are for all legacy gifts – no matter how large or small – whether they help towards a boat or protective boots – they all help our volunteers crews and lifeguards stay as safe as possible while saving lives.'
The new lifeboat will be named The Morrell in memory of Mrs Morrell, her late husband Stanley, her brother-in-law Cyril, and her sister-in-law Patricia. The generous legacy gift also ensures the cost of the upkeep and maintenance of the lifeboat, together with subsequent replacement lifeboats for The Morrell.
Family friend and executor Jackie Simmons said: ‘Barbara would have been overjoyed to know that her home county will benefit from her gift. She was an avid fan of the RNLI’s lifesaving work.’
Chris Ubee, RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager at Dungeness, said: ‘I am delighted that Dungeness has been chosen to receive the latest class of lifeboat. We are all really excited here at the station. We can’t wait for the trials of the new boat due to take place in early 2012.
‘Back in 2006, our station was picked to trial the Shannon’s prototype – the FCB2* – due to Dungeness’s steep, shingle beach and difficult launch and recovery process. A great deal was learnt from that process, enabling the new Shannon class to be designed and the launching equipment to be selected.’
The Shannon has been designed in-house by RNLI naval architects who have harnessed cutting-edge technology to ensure the new lifeboat meets the demands of a 21st century rescue service and allow the charity’s volunteer crew to do their lifesaving work as safely as possible in all weather conditions.
The new lifeboat features twin water jets instead of conventional propellers, allowing it to operate in shallow waters and be highly manoeuvrable – giving the crew greater control when alongside other craft and in confined waters. The water jets also reduce the risk of damage to the lifeboat during launch and recovery, or when intentionally beached. It will be the first RNLI all-weather lifeboat to run on water jets instead of propellers.
Its seats are designed to protect the crew members’ spines as much as possible from the forces of the sea in rough weather. Additionally the Shannon incorporates SIMS (System and Information Management System) which allows the crew to monitor the lifeboat from the safety of their seats, again reducing the likelihood of injury to the volunteer crew members during search and rescue operations.
With a top speed of 25 knots, the Shannon is faster than its predecessor - the current Mersey class lifeboat based at Dungeness, which is capable of 17 knots. The introduction of the Shannon will be the first step in enabling the RNLI to fulfil its operation commitment to ensure that all its operational all-weather lifeboats have a top speed of 25 knots - a crucial factor when lives are at risk.
The Shannon can be launched and recovered from beaches independent of slipways and harbours and a new RNLI tractor and carriage is also being developed to accompany the Shannon.
Like all RNLI all-weather lifeboats, the Shannon is self-righting and it will return to an upright position in the event of a capsize during extreme weather or sea conditions.
The new class of lifeboat will undergo full sea trials later this year, with the first operational Shannon class lifeboats going on station in 2013.