Saturday, 20 January 2007


Salvage is rarely if ever claimed by the RNLI or its crews. The institution exists to save lives at sea and as a result has traditionally given preference in the matter of salvage to private enterprise. However, this has not always meant that salvage has not been claimed. In the early years of the Institution the following statement was given by the Management Committee:

" is considered that such an arrangement (salvage) cannot but be beneficial to all parties:-the owners or insurers of a valuable ship and cargo are fortunate in having their property saved at a small percentage-the crew of the Life-boat, always poor men, receive a handsome payment, calculated to increase their attachment to the Life-boat service-whilst the Institution obtains a sufficient amount to cover the risk of damage to its boat."

However, the Institution had very firm rules regarding salvage. In 1883 these were transgressed by the crew of the Eastbourne lifeboat after they had rescued eleven sailors from the barque 'New Brunswick'. Despite receiving a significant bounty for the rescue, they insisted on claiming salvage in contravention of the RNLI's rules. How were they rewarded for this persistence? Well, they received £105 (£15 more than the bounty offered) and were all dismissed from the service. Mental note to self........

The RNLI felt strongly about this matter because they rightly felt that once word got around that lifeboat crews were more interested in money than saving life, the reputation of the Institution would be severely tarnished. I agree.


Unknown said...

However, (just to play devils advocate) compare the RNLI to many (if not all) of its European counterparts.

I know for a fact the SNSM (France), charge for their services - based upon the distance they had to travel and the tonnage of your boat. I'm pretty sure that the same applies for the Dutch and German equivalents.

In the SNSM, the arrangement at each lifeboat station is broadly similar to the RNLI - with a couple of people who are paid full-time staff, and the rest who are volunteers - unlike the RNLI, the vast majority are ex-mariners.

They get paid a small token amount per-call out, and the SNSM (a charity) takes the rest - to reinvest in kit/training obviously.

It would be a very interesting survey to do in the UK - those that are rescued by the RNLI, how much money do they donate.

Cheers, Dan

lifeboatjohn said...


some interesting points, I think I will answer them in a separate blog if that is OK. Thanks for your continued interest.


Unknown said...

Just carrying on with some other thoughts.

Does the fact that people going to sea in the UK KNOW that they have a very efficient and FREE rescue service make them less likely to fully consider the safety implications of what they are going to do?

Does the fact that people going to sea in France know that they are going to get lumbered with some heavy charges if they need rescue make them less likely to call for rescue until very dire need?

lifeboatjohn said...

Well, I think you are possibly right with the first comment.

However, with regards to the second, I feel strongly that I don't want people to wait until there is a dire emergency before calling for help. The fact that our service is free means that people call for help as soon as they are in difficulty rather than putting it off until the are in desperate need of help.

This means we go to lots of small incidents rather than lots of large ones. They are the same incidents we just get to them sooner because people are not put off calling us by hefty charges.

I am glad it is this way...