Byline: Threat of Coastguard strike leads to misunderstanding of the RNLI charity’s role
In recent media speculation over the possibility and consequences of strike action by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), there have been several instances where the respective roles of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and HM Coastguard have been confused by the media. This is particularly damaging to the reputation of the RNLI, a charity, whose annual national fundraising day – SOS Day, takes place on Friday 25 January.
NB: Editors and news room staff are asked to take particular note of the ‘notes to editors’ at the foot of this document.
Fundraising and Communications Director, David Brann, is concerned that the success of next Friday’s national SOS Day could be at risk:
‘Our volunteers have spent months preparing for this event but if the public think we are part of the Coastguard and part of any strike action they will not support our fundraising. That’s why it is so important to us that our position is made clear and the selfless life-saving actions of our lifeboat volunteers, such as in saving eight crew from the sinking Ice Prince earlier this week, are accurately reported.’
Michael Vlasto, RNLI Operations Director explains how any strike involving HM Coastguard employees at Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC) could affect lifeboats launching:
‘HM Coastguard has a statutory responsibility for initiating and coordinating search and rescue around the coastline of the UK. Anything that causes a break in the communications chain between those requiring assistance, HM Coastguard and the resources – in our case RNLI lifeboats – could potentially put lives at risk. They have advised us that they are developing contingency plans to ensure that this vital communications chain to our crews will be safeguarded.’
The RNLI is a charity dedicated to saving lives at sea. It operates 233 lifeboat stations and launches its 336 lifeboats in response to requests for assistance in maritime search and rescue (SAR) operations from both HM Coastguard in the UK and the Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland.
In the UK requests for RNLI lifeboats to launch are initiated through HM Coastguard-operated MRCCs. 93 per cent of all maritime rescues around the shores of the UK by rescue craft are by RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews
Additional facts about search and rescue in the UK
- The RNLI is a charity – HM Coastguard is part of the MCA, a Government Agency.
- RNLI lifeboats are operated by highly trained volunteer crews and are available 24/7 to launch within minutes to those in peril on the sea. Most RNLI volunteer crew members also have full-time employment, but give up their time to help others. RNLI volunteers carry pagers and are alerted within moments of the HM Coastguard request for assistance.
- The RNLI is funded by public donations – the UK Government funds HM Coastguard.
- The RNLI operates lifeboats at sea and seasonal lifeguards on beaches – HM Coastguard coordinates civil maritime search and rescue from offices known as Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC).
- HM Coastguard decide which resources are needed for a search and rescue incident and then request lifeboats to launch – RNLI volunteer crews respond to that request by launching lifeboats and carrying out search and rescue at sea.
- There are 233 RNLI lifeboat stations around the UK and Republic of Ireland – there are 18 HM Coastguard MRCCs around the UK.
- The RNLI also provides a response to inland flooding. Volunteer lifeboat crews, specially trained in swift water and survival techniques, and other specialist skills are on 24-hour standby to respond to flooding emergencies both at home and abroad.
- Other resources that can be called upon by HM Coastguard during at-sea search and rescue and with which the RNLI often works closely to save lives at sea include: Coastguard helicopters and tugs; Coastguard cliff and mud rescue teams (volunteers); RAF and Royal Naval search and rescue helicopters, and other independent rescue boat services.
Notes to editors / picture desks / news desks:
- Please ensure all your news staff, picture desks and sub-editors are clear on the differences between the organisations involved in UK search and rescue and the RNLI charity’s position.
- Please ensure that any images used in relation to the HM Coastguard strike threat do not portray RNLI lifeboats in a way that suggests that RNLI lifeboat crews are taking part.
- This is especially important to us as our national day of fundraising SOS Day is coming up on 25 January and we would not wish the public to think our volunteers are involved at a time when we are asking the public to support the RNLI charity.
- Please share/store the facts above to help train your teams.
Thank you for your help and support with this issue.
RNLI media contacts
For more information please contact RNLI Public Relations on 01202 336000, email@example.com
The RNLI online