The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has provided the lifeboat service for the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland since 1824 and is recognised as one of the most efficient lifeboat services in the world.
There are more than 230 lifeboat stations, whose lifeboats launch more than 8,000 times a year and rescue over 8,000 people. They are manned by highly trained, largely volunteer crews and every penny required to maintain the lifeboat service is raised from voluntary contributions.
The RNLI is proud of its independent status as a registered charity but works closely with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Irish Coast Guard and other organisations to provide a co-ordinated sea rescue service.
The RNLI is a founding member of the International Lifeboat Federation (ILF), providing the secretariat until recently when the ILF became an independent entity in its own right.
Modern lifeboats are sophisticated vessels ranging from 4.95m (16ft) high-speed inflatable inshore lifeboats to 17m (55ft 9in) all-weather lifeboats. The larger all-weather lifeboats can reach any point up to 100 miles off the coast and are capable of maintaining a good speed in atrocious weather conditions. They have a self righting capability and are fitted with modern navigation, location and communications equipment.
In 2001 the RNLI launched a Beach Lifeguard Service to provide a joined up service from the beach to the open sea. With over 300 lifeguards on 59 beaches the service now saves over 50 lives and helps over 9,000 people a year.