National Independent Lifeboat Association officially launched

National Independent Lifeboat Association launched to support the preservation and protection of life on the water

A new charity, the National Independent Lifeboat Association (NILA), has been launched to support the UK’s independent lifeboats – those that are not affiliated with the RNLI – and to ensure the preservation and protection of life on the water across the UK. While many of the UK’s lifeboats are operated and funded by the Royal National Lifeboat Association (RNLI), there are 46 independent lifeboat organisations that operate independently along the coastline and on inland waterways across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These independent lifeboats are run primarily (if not entirely) by volunteers, and funded by local donations. They provide an invaluable service to their local communities and save thousands of lives each year.

NILA has been founded by Anthony Mangnall MP, whose constituency of Totnes and South Devon is home to one such organisation, Hope Cove Lifeboat.

When visiting the lifeboat station in summer 2020, Mr Mangnall learnt about the team’s essential work as well as the many challenges they face including funding, public awareness and long-term support. Since then, he has been working with colleagues in Parliament as well as industry experts to form this new association that offers independent lifeboats the support and recognition they desperately need.

The official launch took place at the Emergency Services Show at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd September, where NILA had a stand.

The association welcomed members to its first Annual General Meeting on Thursday 21st September.

The National Independent Lifeboat Association has now been registered with the Charity Commission and has formed a committee, consisting of experienced representatives of independent lifeboats. NILA has already welcomed twenty-nine members from all four nations, with more expected to join in the coming months. Many of these members work closely with their local Coastguard office, while those operating on rivers and lakes are tasked by the Police or Fire Service.

Members of NILA will retain their independence while enjoying benefits including greater representation in Parliament, promotion nationally, and access to working groups where data and best practice is shared. The association aims to achieve recognition by the UK SAR Operators Group,  joining the likes of the RNLI, Lowland Rescue (ALSAR), Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MR-EW), and the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS).

The Department for Transport has previously confirmed it is supportive of NILA while the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has also welcomed the new association.

Founder and Honorary President of NILA, Anthony Mangnall MP (Totnes and South Devon), said:

“After two years working together with the independent lifeboats of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I am pleased to see our initiative come to fruition. This new association – NILA – will provide the access and information for our independent lifeboats to thrive over the years to come as well as ensuring our coastline has maximum lifesaving coverage.

The recognition of this association by the Department for Transport and UK Search and Rescue will ensure that independent lifeboats can speak with one unified voice while maintaining their independence.

I look forward to ensuring that not only are our waterways safe for citizens across the country but that this association helps to support those incredible volunteers who do so much to help others”

Chair of NILA, Neil Dalton, said:

“It is an honour to take on the role of Chairman of the National Independent Lifeboat Association.  This organisation is, in my opinion, long overdue and has the potential to offer great support to many independent lifeboats around the UK.

“Many members of the public assume that this water safety role is entirely the province of the RNLI, who provide an outstanding service. However, many areas of the UK are served by independent lifeboats so the National Independent Lifeboat Association intends to raise awareness of these organisations.”