Technology to the rescue

The RNLI has launched the world’s most advanced lifeboat. The Tamar-class vessels, costing £2m each, will eventually replace the Tyne-class boats in its fleet.

The Tamar hosts an array of new technology, including fly-by- wire joystick steering and tracker ball controls managed by six 1GB computers. It can travel at 25 knots, compared to its predecessor’s 17 knots, for 10 hours and rescue up to 100 people at a time.

Designed by the charity’s in-house engineering team in Poole, the 16m Tamar all-weather lifeboat is built from advanced composite materials and uses the latest technology to keep its crew of volunteers safe at sea. The team was supported by designers from naval contractors Devonport Marine, who will also fit out the first four boats.

The Tamar’s safety features include a new ergonomic seat design that will reduce the impact on crew members’ spines in rough weather. The biggest technological advance is in the Tamar’s on-board computer system, Systems and Information Management System (SIMS).

Developed jointly by the RNLI and marine systems specialist Servowatch, SIMS allows several complicated tasks such as engine and navigation management to be displayed on the same screen. The screens can be placed around the boat where they are most needed, and each one allows the user to view information from all the integrated systems. This helps the crew to stay in their seats, lessening the possibility of injury when moving around the cabin in heavy seas.

SIMS has been designed to withstand rough weather. It has five potential power sources, a solid state computer memory and is encased in a waterproof case on a shock-mounted rack. In the event of a power failure in one of the units, each of the six computers is capable of running the ship on its own.

The vessel is also fitted with cameras on top of the mast which can switch to infrared and night vision to search for bodies in the water. The first of the 30-tonne lifeboats will go into service at Tenby in Wales at the end of this year.