RNLI - Barmouth Lifeboat Station


SLARS - Shannon Launch and Recovery system

photo kindly provided by Dave James

Launching a lifeboat is a vital link in saving lives at sea. Operators of launch and recovery equipment often have to launch the lifeboat out in raging seas and the dark - so their role is important to the safety of the crew and those they are trying to save.

The training covers every aspect of launching a lifeboat safely and drivers are trained how to safely operate the main launch vehicles. At Barmouth you will see two of these types in operation.

The Shannon launch and recovery system launches the Shannon class lifeboat - seen here on the beach at the Barmouth.

This is our latest innovation in launch and recovery tractors. It was designed specifically for the Shannon – our newest and most agile class of all-weather lifeboat – and together they are revolutionising the way we save lives at sea.

The launch and recovery system acts like a mobile slipway for the Shannon, which can be driven directly onto the beach for recovery, making both ideal for our lifeboat stations without harbours, slipways or davit systems.

Weighing in at 37 tonnes, this impressive piece of kit can carry an 18-tonne Shannon over all kinds of beach terrain, from steep shelving shingle to wet, sticky sand. It can drive straight into big surf and safely launch the lifeboat in up to 2.4m of water. Not only that, in the event of breakdown with an incoming tide, the watertight tractor can be completely submerged in depths of up to 9m before being retrieved once the tide has receded.

In calm conditions, the tractor doesn’t even have to get wet. Its hydraulic carriage tilts 7 degrees downwards, allowing the lifeboat to run down the slope into the water. The lifeboat is launched at the touch of a button and the whole system requires less manual handling by shore crew volunteers, making for a safer and more efficient launch and recovery. When it’s time to recover the beached lifeboat bow first onto the tractor’s unique turntable cradle, it can rotate the lifeboat 180º, ready to be launched again within 10 minutes.

This is 150% faster than its predecessor – the launch and recovery system for our Mersey class all-weather lifeboat – which takes an average of 25 minutes. With its 450hp engine, it can tow the lifeboat to the tideline 43% faster too – at 10mph compared to 7mph. Every second can mean the difference between life and death when there’s an emergency at sea. And RNLI engineers worked closely with Supacat Ltd in the bespoke design of this state-of-the-art launch and recovery system to shave every second they could.

Bigger windows and CCTV give our volunteer tractor drivers much better visibility.
The driver can face forwards or backwards on a 180º rotating seat.
A second seat in the cab makes training easier and safer.
And hydraulic motors mean the height of the whole rig can be reduced to fit inside boathouses, negating the need for extensive building works.

photo kindly provided by Dave James

The Shannon is shown here partially rotated on the SLARS.

All photos above provided courtesy of Dave James

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New Holland TL80 four wheel drive

Whilst the SLARS is the main launch vehicle of the boathouse, the TL80 could be described as the workhorse. It's primary role is to launch and recover the D-class ILB, but it is also used to for a variety of other tasks.

The TL80 is pictured here returning with the D-Class in tow after a a practice launch.