RNLI takes over lifeboat hull construction

A Tamar class RNLI lifeboat is seen under construction at Green Marine. Photo courtesy of RNLI.

A new subsidiary company has been formed by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to take over the lifeboat hull construction and composite repair capability of UK based boat builder Green Marine Ltd.

The creation of the new company, to be called SAR Composites Ltd (SAR is short for Search and Rescue) follows the exchanging of contracts between the RNLI and Green Marine last month.

Green Marine currently operates from three premises in Lymington on the UK's south coast and the move will see lifeboat hull production transfer from the Spitfire Quay facility to their factory at Waterloo Road, Lymington. It is anticipated that the move will be completed by early April 2009.

Green Marine have had a long relationship with the RNLI, producing lifeboat hulls and carrying out composite repairs. Currently the company builds hulls for the two latest classes of RNLI lifeboats, the 16m Tamar class all-weather lifeboat and the 8.5m Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat.

The move follows plans by the company's current owners to retire and their reviewing of the various options open to them for passing the company on to new owners. The sale of the lifeboat hull construction capability was seen to have very positive benefits for Green Marine, allowing a restructuring of the company. This option consequently became part of the strategy to put together an attractive package for the new ownership.

The company stresses that it has a healthy order book and that the sale is not a result of the current economic downturn, which they are well positioned to ride out. Their core activity is advanced composite racing and cruising yacht construction and over a 25 year period the company has completed over 160 boats involving two million man hours from a workforce of approximately 130 employees. Their product range includes cutting edge superyachts and contender yachts for the America's Cup and Volvo Round the World Race.

For the RNLI it was seen as essential to safeguard the skill base of this important element of their lifeboat construction and repair programme. The move will secure the long term future of this capability and it is expected that approximately 30 Green Marine employees engaged in lifeboat hull construction will be offered the opportunity to transfer across to SAR Composites Ltd.

RNLI Engineering and Supply Director David Brook said, 'This is not a decision we are taking lightly. Green Marine is the only manufacturer in the United Kingdom able to produce the technologically advanced composite hulls required for our lifeboat to the RNLI's exacting standards. Loss of this capability would have had catastrophic consequences for our Tamar, Atlantic 85 and other future lifeboat construction. After carefully evaluating a comprehensive range of options including potential overseas suppliers, we concluded that taking over the Green Marine capability would best serve the Institution's current and future interests. Hence, I am confident that our decision to secure the continuation of lifeboat hull construction in the UK, in Lymington, is the right one and I look forward to welcoming the Green Marine work force that will be coming to join SAR Composites Ltd.'

By Peter Barker

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