2006 busiest year ever for sea rescue service

Search and rescue statistics published today by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) show 2006 was its busiest year, continuing a climbing three-year trend.

RNLI lifeboats launched a total of 8,377 times last year – the highest number to date in a year – and rescued 8,015 people, passing the 8,000 mark for only the second time in its history.

“People are using the sea in ever-increasing numbers to pursue an ever-widening range of activities,” says Michael Vlasto, the RNLI’s operations director. “The RNLI is responding to this by introducing more inshore lifeboats, faster all weather lifeboats and expanding our lifeguard service. Our aim is to provide a seamless rescue service from the beach to the open sea.”

A survey to measure marine participation released this week found that up to 3.7 million adults now take part in boating activities, compared to 3.5m in 2005. Click here for the full story.

Lifeboat rescue launches to small non-powered craft increased by 24 per cent (805 launches) when compared to the 2005 figure, with rescues to canoeists and kayakers up 46 per cent, possibly reflecting an uptake in this activity. People getting into trouble in inflatable dinghies went up by 28 per cent in 2006, accounting for 357 launches, and the total of this type of rescue caused by ‘adverse conditions’ increased by 26 per cent, highlighting the dangers associated with British weather.

“Use of the sea brings with it risk and everyone who uses the sea, for whatever purpose, must take responsibility for their own safety seriously,” says Vlasto. “While there is a small, irresponsible minority, which behaves recklessly, we believe that the overwhelming majority are prepared to listen and through our prevention and education programmes we are trying to get safety messages across to the different sea-user groups whether they work at sea or use it for leisure.

“It is the people who use the sea who can make a real difference and perhaps reduce the demands placed on our volunteer lifeboats crews, who launched 8,377 times in 2006, equivalent to almost 23 launches every day. Experience suggests that it will be no different in 2007.’

The RNLI’s funding is totally dependent on donations from the public. To learn more about the charity, get sea safety tips and see footage of the crews in action, click here .