Sturdy rollers help launch RNLI craft

Uploaded 05 Jun @ 18:42pm

Attwater & Sons has been supplying materials to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution for several years for use on the new Shannon-class All Weather Lifeboats, so it is fitting that the RNLI has called upon composite tube specialist Custom Composites, part of the Attwater Group, to provide the rollers that will help launch the new Shannon Class All Weather Lifeboat at the new £3.5 million Swanage lifeboat Station.

The rollers have been designed specifically to withstand the 18 tonne weight of the craft and remain unaffected by the harsh marine environment. The rollers will form part of a modular launch and recovery system that carries the Shannon-class craft from the lifeboat house to the sea.

Attwater & Sons was subsequently contracted to manufacture the 17 cassettes that house the rollers themselves. The modular design allows the RNLI to swap out components for maintenance and replacement as and when necessary.

Sales Director, Rachael Kennedy, says “Everyone at Attwater is extremely proud to be involved in such an important project, working with a charitable organisation whose primary focus is saving lives. To think that we supply materials vital for building the Lifeboats themselves, and are now supplying a fundamental part of the launching system that will enable the RNLI to continue its fantastic work. This is another example of how the materials that we manufacture and machine, though not headline grabbing, are vital to so many companies around the World.”

Andy States, General Manager at Custom Composites, states: “The RNLI approached Custom Composites and subsequently Attwater & Sons with a very specific requirement. The rollers needed to remain free from stress fractures or voids, and required a manufacturer with our level of experience and quality assurance to meet these demands. Our composite rollers will not corrode in seawater or deform like some rubbers do under such stresses and in such demanding environments.”

With over 20 years’ experience producing composite tubes Andy States relished the challenge the rollers presented, he suggested reducing the roller length slightly to improve tube yields, this minor alteration enabled the rollers to be manufactured with less wastage. As he explains: “Such a small change allowed us to pass on a cost saving to the customer while creating less waste; a win, win situation”

The Swanage lifeboat Station is due to be officially opened 29 April 2017 and Attwater hopes that following successful trials, the roller system will be incorporated in other RNLI installations around the UK.

Life saving benefits
Designed to revolutionise the way lives are saved at sea, the Shannon-class has a top speed of 25 knots. It is the first modern all-weather lifeboat propelled by waterjets instead of propellers, making it the most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat in the fleet.

Waterjets allow the vessel to operate in shallow waters and be intentionally beached. And when precision really matters, such as operating alongside a stricken vessel or navigating around hazards, they will come into their own. Measuring just 13 m in length and weighing in at 18 tonnes, the Shannon is the smallest and lightest of the RNLI’s 25-knot lifeboats, meaning it can be launched straight off the beach via a new and improved launch and recovery system. Designed in conjunction with Supacat, the new tractor-borne carriage allows a faster and safer launch and recovery time than the present system. It operates as a mobile slipway, which solves the unique challenge of transporting, launching and recovering the Shannon over some of the most demanding beaches. After being recovered from the beach bow first, a turntable in the carriage rotates the Shannon ready for its next launch. Meaning casualties can be reached sooner and volunteer launching crews are better protected.

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