RNLI Asks Public to Avoid Seagoing Activities Due to Risk for Rescuers

File image courtesy Nigel Millard / RNLI

By The Maritime Executive 04-13-2020 07:28:11

In order to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection for its volunteer lifesaving crews, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has asked the British public to temporarily avoid any seagoing activity. 

Under ordinary circumstances, the advent of springtime would bring many people to the coast for boating, swimming, diving, fishing and other activities. However, given the COVID-19 outbreak, the RNLI is urging everyone to follow the UK government's instructions - to stay home, save lives, and protect the personnel of the UK National Health Service.

Daily exercise is allowed under the strictures, but RNLI discourages any exercise on or in the sea. Its volunteer lifeboat crews are still on duty, but each callout could potentially expose the lifeboat crew to coronavirus. In addition, every callout for a distressed recreational boater draws down on the organization's finite resources. The RNLI is a charity and depends upon public donations for 95 percent of its funding; with the UK in lockdown, it cannot carry out its normal fundraising events, and its public collection boxes see fewer passersby. RNLI's chief executive has taken a 50 percent pay cut and announced plans to furlough 30 percent of the organization's staff. 

"We know people who live at the coast still want to exercise by the sea, but when you do this, please think of the potential impact of your actions on RNLI lifeboat volunteers and other emergency services," said RNLI head of water safety Gareth Morrison. "Since lockdown was introduced around the UK coast, our lifeboats have been called out all too often to rescue people."

The RNLI was already facing financial stress prior to the coronavirus outbreak, with rising demand for its services and lackluster fundraising numbers. Morrison appealed for the public's support via online donation. "We can't arrange fundraising events, open our shops, or welcome people to lifeboat stations at the moment, which means our ability to fundraise has been severely impacted. This could be the biggest storm the RNLI has ever faced. If people feel compelled to show their support from home, we ask them to help by giving something that keeps our volunteers ready to launch, replaces worn-out kit or helps us repair a lifeboat," he said in a statement.