RNLI Portaferry Lifeboat - Media Centre
RNLI Lifeboat House, The Strand, Portaferry, Co Down, Northern Ireland


For all media enquiries - please contact our Lifeboat Press Officer, Miss Jordan Conway at:

Tel: 07487 762226S


NOTE - For all Water Safety or Community Safety matters, Station Visits and Fundraising enquiries please visit our 'Contact Us' page or click here

14 June 2019


There are 238 RNLI operational Lifeboat Stations around the UK & Ireland where there are stationed 431 lifeboats (including those in the relief fleet) comprising 160 all-weather lifeboats, 264 inshore lifeboats and 7 hovercraft.  

Of these there are 46 operational lifeboat stations (with 63 lifeboats) around Ireland of which there are 10 lifeboat stations located in Northern Ireland.
These lifeboat stations are located at;

Portrush - Severn all-weather and a D Class in-shore lifeboat
Red Bay (Cushendall) - Trent all-weather and an Atlantic 85 in-shore lifeboat
Larne - Trent all-weather lifeboat and a D Class in-shore lifeboat
Bangor - Atlantic 85 in-shore lifeboat
Donaghadee - Trent all-weather lifeboat
Portaferry - Atlantic 85 in-shore lifeboat
Newcastle - Mersey all-weather and a D Class in-shore lifeboat
Kilkeel - Atlantic 85 in-shore lifeboat
Carrybridge (upper Lough Erne) - Atlantic 85 in-shore lifeboat
Enniskillen (lower Lough Erne) - Atlantic 85 in-shore lifeboat

There are also 11 RNLI Lifeguard guarded beaches in Northern Ireland located at;

Benone Strand, Downhill Strand, Castlerock, Portstewart Strand, Portrush West, Portrush West Harbour, Portrush East, Whiterocks, Tyrella, Murlock and Cranfield

In addition the RNLI has 4 specially-trained flood rescue teams which cover the UK & abroad.

During 2018 there were;

8,964 launches from lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland

9,412 people were aided

and 211 lives saved

26 people are aided each day, on average

29 March 2017


During 2016 RNLI Lifeboats from 237 stations in the British Isles and the Republic of Ireland were launched 8,851 times, rescued 8,643 people and saved 431 lives.  Of these launches 3,526 hours were services carried out in darkness.

Volunteer Lifeboat crews spent 60,305 hours at sea during these rescues and in addition were at sea on training exercises for 168,562 hours.

RNLI Lifeguards operating from over 240 beaches, helped 20,538 people and saved 127 lives.

Portaferry Lifeboat was launched 28 times on rescue services in 2016.

28 January 2015

RNLI give 565 reasons to 'Respect the Water' in Northern Ireland in 2014

RNLI lifeboats in Northern Ireland launched 261 times in 2014 bringing 281 people to safety, while the charity's lifeguards helped 284 people on ten beaches during the season.

The RNLI is calling for the public to think ahead and never underestimate the strength and power of the sea and inland waters as it today (Wednesday 28 January) releases its lifeboat and lifeguard figures for 2014.

Enniskillen RNLI, which operates from two inland stations on Upper and Lower Lough Erne in county Fermanagh, had the most call outs launching 59 times over the 12 months bringing 57 people to safety.

Bangor RNLI in county Down was the busiest single site station launching 49 times and helping 51 people.

Portaferry Lifeboat was launched on service on 24 occasions and rescued 47 persons.

Compared to the previous year lifeboat launches show a slight increase when they launched 255 times and 36 more people were brought to safety by RNLI lifeboats in 2014.

The RNLI lifeguard units, which are located on beaches in county Down and along the Causeway Coast were also kept busy during the summer, recording 251 incidents, assisting 284 people. The busiest beaches were Portrush where the lifeguards operate three units, the lifeguards dealt with 126 separate incidents and 148 people.

Commenting on these figures RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Tim Doran said: 'With the profile of the beaches changing after winter storms, the RNLI lifeguards were kept busy. With rip currents and changing landscapes the lifeguards engaged in a large amount of preventative work, speaking to beach users and advising of the safest places to swim.'

Overall the RNLI's lifeboat crews in Ireland launched 1,089 times, bringing 1,414 people to safety. The busiest lifeboat station in Ireland last year was Lough Ree RNLI in Athlone. The charity's lifeboat crew there launched 69 times and brought 142 people to safety. This was followed by Howth RNLI which with 62 launches and 107 people brought to safety, had their busiest year ever.

The types of call outs that the RNLI responded to last year in Ireland included aid to leisure craft users (536), assistance to fishing vessels (140) help to people who got into difficulty along the shoreline (119) and to people in the water (185).

Commenting on the figures RNLI Operations Manager Darren Byers said:

'These figures are based on every lifeboat station in the RNLI returning a detailed service report and are a valuable insight into what our volunteer lifeboat crews are facing when they launch and what conditions they face. Also 35% of lifeboat callouts were carried out in darkness and almost half of the callouts were to leisure vessels. Of these callouts many were to boats run aground and engine problems. Breaking down at sea or on a lough can be a frightening experience. Weather and darkness can turn a bad situation very serious in a matter of minutes. Nobody who sets out thinks anything bad will happen but calling for help early is always the right choice.

Our volunteer lifeboat and shore crew have shown the commitment and courage we have come to rely on them for, but we must also thank our supporters and fundraisers, who work tirelessly to ensure the charity, which is dependent on donations from the public continues.

There are also hundreds of employers around the county who let our lifeboat crews drop what they are doing and respond to a callout. We would not be able to run this service without them and we are extremely grateful for them for that.'

2014 also saw the introduction of the RNLI's 45th lifeboat station in Ireland when in November Union Hall RNLI in south west Cork went on trial for a 24 month period.

2015 meanwhile, will see Lough Swilly RNLI in Buncrana, County Donegal become the first station in Ireland to receive the new Shannon class lifeboat. The €2.4M lifeboat which is due to arrive later this year is the first class of lifeboat to be named after an Irish river, recognition by the charity of the role of Irish lifeboat crews and volunteers throughout the history of the RNLI.

Last year the charity marked 190 years of lifesaving and the RNLI is aiming to reduce coastal fatalities significantly by 2024. To do this the charity will be expanding its preventative work and engaging with water users through the 'Respect the Water' campaign on how to stay safe and maintain their equipment. Water Safety advice is available on rnli.org/safety

NOTE: During 2014 RNLI Lifeboats in the UK & Ireland were launched 8,462 times and rescued 8,727 people, 368 of which were classified as lives saved.   

In addition RNLI Lifeguards attended 17,050 incidents during which 1,769 people were rescued, 92 of which were lives saved.  Overall RNLI Lifeguards helped 19,252 people both in and out of the water.

Portaferry RNLI is always looking for new volunteer crew members to join its search and rescue service and help save lives at sea.

The station currently has 20 lifeboat crew and two shore crew to cover its inshore service on Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea approaches to the Lough but is now calling on new volunteers to come forward and find out how they can get involved in helping the charity continue to save lives at sea.

Portaferry RNLI was established in 1980 due to the increase in pleasure boating activity and commercial traffic in Strangford Lough and its Irish Sea approaches. In 2009, a new Atlantic 85 lifeboat was placed on service and a new boathouse was constructed to accommodate the larger Atlantic 85 lifeboat.

At Portaferry RNLI we are looking for anyone aged 17 years and over who is willing to offer some of their free time to join what is one of the most exhilarating and rewarding voluntary services that is out there. Every volunteer receives first class training from the RNLI and learns new skills which can benefit them in many walks of life'

Volunteers for the lifeboat crew will have to be reasonably fit, be required to take a medical and eyesight test and should live or work within six minutes travel time from the lifeboat station.  Other opportunities exist for shore crew without the same medical requirements our in our Community Safety or Fundraising Team.

Anyone who feels they have the time and commitment to volunteer for the charity which is on call 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, is asked to email us at lom@portaferrylifeboat.com

For additional information click here

Alternatively, if you could help us raise life-saving funds for the RNLI, please click here for further information.

28 January 2014

RNLI brings 575 people to safety in Northern Ireland in 2013

Author Nuala McAloon - RNLI Press Officer Ireland

RNLI lifeboats in Northern Ireland launched 255 times in 2013 bringing 245 people to safety.

The figures released today (Tuesday 28 January) are based on returns of service from the nine lifeboat stations located across the region.

The annual statistics show that 109 call outs took place in the dark while crews spent 1,459 service hours at sea collectively. Enniskillen RNLI, which operates from two inland stations on Upper and Lower Lough Erne in county Fermanagh, had the most call outs launching 56 times over the 12 months bringing 82 people to safety. Portrush RNLI in county Antrim had 47 call outs bringing 33 people to safety while Bangor RNLI in county Down launched 31 times and rescued 23 people.

Northern Ireland experienced one of its hottest summers for years and this was reflected in a busy season for the 10 RNLI lifeguard units which are located on beaches in county Down and along the Causeway Coast. In all, RNLI lifeguards responded to 302 incidents compared to 159 in 2012 and came to the aid of 330 people who found themselves in difficulty, which is an increase of 153 from the year before. The Causeway Coast, where there are seven units, was the busiest area, with lifeguards responding to 222 incidents and assisting 247 people. Among these incidents was the dramatic rescue of a family of six in Castlerock after they got caught in a flash rip - a strong current running out to sea.

Overall in Ireland, RNLI lifeboats launched 1,087 times in 2013 bringing 1,278 people to safety.

The statistics show that the majority of last year’s call outs were to pleasure craft which accounted for 583 services, while there were 138 launches to fishing vessels. The charity’s lifeboat crews also had 142 call outs to people classed as ashore. These services included assisting people who were ill or injured on an island, cliff or the shoreline, where access by lifeboat was the fastest or safest way to reach the casualty.

On 10 occasions, lifeboat crews were also called upon to rescue animals in 2013. These included four dogs, two sheep, a cow, two whales and a dolphin.

The overall statistics show an increase of 132 lifeboat launches in 2013, up from 955 in 2012 to 1,087. There was also an upsurge in the number of rescues with 221 more people brought to safety over the 12 month period. Throughout the year, there were some dramatic and challenging call outs for the lifeboat crews.

In September, Portaferry RNLI rescued a fisherman from Portavogie, who was in the water for 45 minutes after his vessel sank off the coast of county Down.   

Earlier, in July, 30 people were rescued by Kinsale and Courtmacsherry lifeboat crews when the tall ship Astrid was blown onto rocks and started to take on water off the south coast.

Reflecting on the year, Gareth Morrison, RNLI Divisional Operations Manager for Northern Ireland said: ‘2013 proved to be another busy year for the RNLI with an increase in both our lifeboat launches and rescues.

Our lifeboat crews are highly trained and equipped to deal with the challenges they face and we are indebted to their dedication to respond when the need arises.

‘Sadly’, Mr Morrison continued, ‘not every call out results in a rescue and 2013 also brought its share of tragedy. A number of our call outs involved searches for missing people and in some incidents, they involved bringing home loved ones who were lost at sea. These call outs, while challenging for all involved, demonstrate the commitment and seamanship of our crews who devote many hours to a search and recovery effort.’

Looking ahead, Mr Morrison reminded the public that irrespective of weather conditions, the water always presents a risk. He recommended that people take care by following some simple safety tips: ‘We would remind water users to always wear a lifejacket, get the appropriate training, carry a means of calling for help, check engine and fuel, tell others where you are going and check weather and tides’.

Morrison concluded by thanking everyone who had contributed to help the RNLI save lives at sea in 2013: ‘I would like to say a huge thank-you to our volunteers and all those who support the RNLI, a charity dependent on the generosity of the public, whether by giving up their time or by making a donation. I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of our colleagues in the Coastguard and emergency services who we worked closely with in 2013’.

NOTE - During 2013 RNLI Lifeboats along the coastline and inland waters of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland were launched 8,304 times and rescued 8,384 people, during which lifeboat crews spent 3,069 hours at sea in darkness. Lifeguards responded to 19,594 incidents and helped 23,505 people.  The RNLI Flood Rescue Team was also deployed in Wales during December 2013 rescuing 25 people.

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22 January 2013

RNLI lifeboats and lifeguards answer 413 calls for help in Northern Ireland in 2012

2012 saw RNLI lifeboats in Northern Ireland launch 255 times to a variety of call outs.

The search and rescue operations saw 236 people brought safely to shore throughout the year by the nine volunteer lifeboat crews located across the region.

The annual statistics released by the charity today (22 January) show that of the figures, 111 services took place in darkness while crews collectively spent 2,193 service hours at sea.

Bangor was the busiest lifeboat station in Ireland launching to 53 requests for help with the crew rescuing 53 people off the county Down coast. Enniskillen which operates two bases on Upper and Lower Lough Erne in county Fermanagh and which is Northern Ireland's only inland RNLI station, launched 46 times and brought 50 people to safety. Portrush RNLI in county Antrim launched 33 times and rescued 33 people.

Portaferry's 'Blue Peter V' Lifeboat launched to incidents on 23 occasions (11 in darkness) during 2012.  The lifeboat crew rescued 16 people during which time they spent 252 hours at sea.

It was also a busy year for the 10 RNLI lifeguard units located on beaches in county Down and along the Causeway Coast, where lifeguards responded to 158 incidents and assisted 176 people who found themselves in difficulty.

The Causeway Coast where there are seven units located, was the busiest area, with the Portrush East lifeguards responding to 31 incidents and assisting 35 people. The Benone unit attended 30 incidents and assisted 30 people while the Portrush West unit responded to 25 incidents and assisted 32 people.

Overall in Ireland, RNLI lifeboats launched 939 times with the volunteer crews across the 44 stations rescuing 1,041 people. The figures show that while the overall number of lifeboat launches decreased in 2012 compared to 2011, there were over a hundred more people rescued.

Across the coast and inland, volunteers spent some 10,194 service hours on Irish waters and as is the case every year, there were a variety of reasons for the call outs.

The most common causes for responding in 2012 were to incidents involving machinery failure (200), people thought to be in trouble (109), a missing person (73), and to vessels that were stranded or had ran aground (73).

NOTE - During 2012 RNLI Lifeboats along the coastline and inland waters of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland were launched 8,321 times and rescued 7,921 people, during which lifeboat crews spent 67,352 hours at sea. Lifeguards responded to 14,519 incidents and helped 16,414 people.  The RNLI Flood Rescue Team was also deployed 12 times at incidents in England, Wales and Ireland.

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7 February 2012

RNLI statistics for Northern Ireland lifeboats and lifeguards show 373 calls for help during 2011

2011 saw RNLI lifeboats in Northern Ireland launch 259 times to a variety of callouts.

201 people were rescued over the course of the year by volunteer lifeboat crews from the 10 RNLI Lifeboat Stations in Northern Ireland who spent over 1,726 hours at sea, while the newly introduced RNLI beach lifeguards on seven beaches along the Causeway coast recorded 114 incidents and helped 123 people.

During 2011, Portaferry Lifeboat was launched on service 30 times and rescued 23 people during which the lifeboat crew spent 179 hours at sea, often in difficult weather and sea conditions.    In addition to shore based training, the station's volunteer crew also spent 365 hours at sea whilst on exercise.

Overall, RNLI volunteer crew members from the 43 lifeboat stations around Ireland responded to 980 calls and rescued 905 people during 2011.  

Combined figures for the UK and the Republic of Ireland for 2011 show that RNLI lifeboats were launched on service 8,905 times, rescued 7,976 people and saved 354 lives.  RNLI Life-guards on 180 beaches in the UK attended 15,625 incidents, aided 17,671 people and saved 84 lives.

RNLI statistics for 2011 show that launches to vessels suffering machinery failure still account for the largest number of callouts.

The 2011 figures have been released in the wake of the RNLI 'Lifejackets for Lifesavers' campaign which will see every lifeboat station in Northern Ireland take delivery of new specially designed lifejackets by September 2012.  The lifejackets have been commissioned by the RNLI for search and rescue work and have been given the seal of approval by lifeboat volunteers.  The cost of providing the lifejackets for all of Northern Ireland's lifeboat stations is estimated at £26,500.   (further details below)

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November 2011


In 2012 the RNLI plans to start replacing all lifejackets currently worn by its RNLI volunteer crew members.

Since the days of the first RNLI designed lifejackets using cork for bouyancy, introduced in 1854, the RNLI has striven to provide the best possible lifejackets available to protect its volunteers whilst on search and rescue missions at sea.

The current lifejackets worn by 'off-shore' and 'in-shore' lifeboat crews are coming to the end of their useful life and the costs of maintaining them each year have been rising significantly.

The new 'in-shore' and 'off-shore' lifejackets have been developed in close consultation with the RNLI and its crew members and are specifically designed for the safety of those engaged in Search & Rescue missions, world wide.

They will provide many additional safety features, uncommon on other lifejackets, such as, additional buoyance, flare pockets to hold illumination & distress flares, a casualty care kit, a torch and a knife, an integrated harness designed to pull the lifejacket away from the wearer's neck allowing freedom of movement in rescue conditions and a spray hood to protect the wearer during rescues or in survival situations.

Because of their complexity each 'off-shore' lifejacket will cost £375 and an 'in-shore' lifejacket, £350.  It will therefore cost between £2,000 and £11,000 to equip each lifeboat station with the new lifejackets.

May 2012 - Note: The 'Lifejackets for Lifesavers' appeal fund is now closed there having been such a huge response.  The RNLI has now received sufficient donations to replace all lifeboat crew lifejackets. A 'BIG' thank-you to all who supported the appeal.  The process has started and all crews should have received their new life-jackets by September 2012.

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19 May 2011 - 'The RNLI Review of the Year 2010'

On 19 May 2011 those attending the 'RNLI Annual Presentation of Awards' in London were shown the film, 'The RNLI Review of the Year 2010'.   

To view the '2010 Annual Review' (17 minutes) please click HERE

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RNLI press release 11 April 2011

New class of RNLI lifeboat to be named after the river 'Shannon'

The RNLI has announced that its latest all-weather class of lifeboat will be called 'The Shannon'.

It follows in a 45-year tradition of naming the charity’s lifeboats after rivers or stretches of water, but it will be the first time that the name of an Irish river has been used.

Paul Boissier, RNLI Chief Executive, said: ‘I’m delighted to announce that our latest class of lifeboat will be called the Shannon. Current and previous classes of lifeboat carry, or have carried, the names of rivers from Wales, Scotland and England, so it’s fitting that our fleet now reflects the fact that our volunteers save lives at sea all around Ireland as well as the UK.’

The Shannon class lifeboat – its previous designation was the Fast Carriage Boat 2 or FCB2 reflecting that it will be predominantly launched over beaches, – harnesses cutting-edge technology to ensure that it will meet the demands of a 21st century rescue service and allow the charity’s volunteer crew to do their lifesaving work as safely as possible in all weather conditions.

Using twin waterjets instead of conventional propellers, the Shannon class will be able to operate in shallow waters and be highly manoeuvrable. The waterjets also reduce the risk of damage to the lifeboat during launch and recovery, or when intentionally beached. It can be launched, bow first, from a tractor and carriage and will have a top speed of 25 knots.

Like the Tamar class lifeboat, the Shannon also has specially designed seats that protect the volunteer crew and SIMS (System and Information Management System), which allows the crew to monitor the boat from the safety of their seats. Like all RNLI all-weather lifeboats, the Shannon is self-righting and will return to an upright position in the event of capsize.

Arklow Lifeboat Operations Manager and RNLI Honorary Life Governor Jimmy Tyrell has campaigned for many years for an RNLI lifeboat class to be named after an Irish river. Commenting on the announcement Jimmy said, “I am thrilled with the news, not just for myself but for everyone involved with the RNLI in Ireland. It is recognition for all the hard work of our volunteer lifeboat crewmembers, fundraisers and staff in Ireland. This has been a subject close to my heart for many years and I am delighted that it has been announced while I am still a volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager and heavily involved with the charity. I am looking forward to seeing it on service at lifeboat stations in a couple of years.”

The Shannon will gradually replace the existing Mersey class lifeboat and will be the final step in enabling the RNLI to fulfil its operation commitment to ensure that all its operational lifeboats have a top speed of 25 knots. Full sea trials will start later this year and the first operational Shannon class lifeboat is due to go on station in 2013.

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Press release 26th January 2011

RNLI statistics for 2010 - Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's RNLI lifeboats were launched on service 269 times during 2010 and brought 281 people to safety ashore.

Figures released on 25 January 2011 by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) show that Northern Ireland's lifeboat crews had a busy year with an average of five people a week being brought to safety from a variety of callouts.

During 2010, Portaferry Lifeboat 'Blue Peter V' launched 29 times and rescued 29 people.

2011 will be a big year for the charity in Northern Ireland with RNLI lifeguards being introduced on seven beaches along the Antrim coast this Summer. These will be the first RNLI lifeguards in Northern Ireland and they will work in conjunction with the existing lifeboat crews during the busy Summer months.

The overall figure for launches and rescues of RNLI lifeboats in Ireland was 1,002 callouts with 1,094 people brought to safety.

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General information for Editors

The RNLI provides a 24/7 search and rescue service every day of the year to 100 nautical miles out from the coast of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

HM Coastguard and the Irish Coast Guard initiate and co-ordinate civil maritime search and rescue (SAR) in the UK and Irish SAR regions from Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC).

During maritime emergencies at sea, the shoreline, on beaches or on cliffs, both of these authorities call on RNLI lifeboats which are declared as 'search and rescue assets'.

The RNLI responds within agreed criteria.

As a charity, the RNLI depends on volunteers.

The RNLI has 236 lifeboat stations located in strategic locations along the coastline and inland waters of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.  In addition there are now over 180 RNLI life-guarded beaches during the summer months, 10 of which are located in County Down and County Antrim, Northern Ireland.  

Ninety-five per cent of the RNLI's crew members are volunteers.

The RNLI has 4,660 volunteer crew members, 3,000 volunteer shore helpers/station management and over 35,000 voluntary fundraisers.

For further information regarding these statistics or any media enquiries please contact our Lifeboat Press Officer, at LPO@PortaferryLifeboat.com

Last update 27/06/19

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