RNLI fast tracks Stonehaven lifeboat station opening

THE RNLI is to press ahead with plans to fast track the opening of a new lifeboat station at Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire following an enthusiastic response from potential volunteers.

• The station is being established to fill the gap left following the closure of the Maritime Rescue Institute

• The new station plans were unveiled at a public meeting on Thursday night

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• A decision on the long-term future of the station will be made at a later date

The station - the institution’s 47th base in Scotland - is being established on a trial base to fill the gap in life saving cover left following the closure of the charity that was providing voluntary lifeboat services along a 25-mile stretch of the Aberdeenshire coastline.

The town’s Maritime Rescue Institute (MRI), which also specialised in training lifeboat crews from across the world, withdrew rescue cover for the area earlier this year when it was forced to close after its base and boats were extensively damaged in December’s storm surge.

More than 200 people attended a public meeting in the town on Thursday night where Paul Jennings, the RNLI’s Divisional Operations Manager for the area, unveiled the new station plans.

He explained the aim was to open a trial station with an inshore Atlantic 85 lifeboat in July after which the RNLI will monitor the volunteer commitment and the number and type of incidents attended. A decision on the long-term future of what would be Scotland’s 47th lifeboat station will then be taken at a later date.

Mr Jennings said: “We are absolutely delighted with a huge turnout from people in the Stonehaven area. We need to sift through their forms as soon as possible and contact them to follow up their interest.”

He stressed: ‘We often find that we can have crew available for the night times because they may work away from a town during the day but come home at night. The problem we can face is having enough crew working locally during the day.

“Offshore workers are also suitable to become crew because when they have their time off and spend a couple of weeks at home they are then ideally placed to man the lifeboat.”

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An RNLI spokesman explained: “The RNLI is seeking a crew complement of five helms, 15 crew, a mechanic and three plant operators. The age range for crew is from 17 to 50 years old and they should be able to reach the station within five minutes of their pager being activated.

“There are also vacancies for a Lifeboat Operations Manager, Deputy Launching Authorities, a Press Officer, a Medical Advisor and a Training Coordinator.”

The RNLI has already had a station on two occasions at Stonehaven. The charity operated there from 1867 to 1934, and from 1967 to 1984, launching 97 times and rescuing 72 people.

MRI, based in Stonehaven for more than 30 years, had provided volunteer crews to provide 24 hour search and rescue lifeboat response via the Coastguard for up to 50 nautical miles offshore. It had carried out over 500 rescue operations since it opened.