Based just under Waterloo Bridge on the north side of the Thames, Tower Lifeboat is the dedicated Search and Rescue resource for Central London, that covers 16 miles of the Thames between Barking Creek and Battersea.
We are the RNLI's busiest station but that doesn't mean the Thames is unsafe, it's just that London is a densely populated capital city with a well used river.
This requires us, unlike coastal crews that respond to pagers, to ensure that there is a full crew on the station 24/7 and 365 days a year. To enable that to happen, our volunteer crew of 55 work at least two 12hr shifts per month at the station and they are supported by 10 permanent crew.
In addition to Search and Rescue we have a proactive, marine safety and accident prevention role. We patrol the river at busy times and for large events such as Boat Races, New Year and other Festivities. The Lifeboat is often tasked to provide first aid treatment to passengers on tour and party boats, to assist the recovery of bodies from the river and to provide some measure of assurance with its presence in a variety of situations.
A new search and rescue service for the River Thames was announced on 22 January 2001. The RNLI was asked by the Government to provide lifeboat cover, the first time specifically covering a river rather than estuarial waters. This came as a result of the findings of the Thames Safety Inquiries into the collision between the pleasure cruiser The Marchioness and the dredger Bowbelle, which resulted in the loss of 51 lives in 1989.
Since Tower Lifeboat Station opened on 2nd January 2002 at noon, there have been 6893 launches with 291 lives saved and this continues to rise. Originally stationed at Tower Pier next to the Tower of London, it quickly established the RNLI within the river community.
The Lifeboat Station moved to purpose built facilities in the former Waterloo Police Pier but uniquely among the RNLI's stations retains the name of its original location, Tower.