Beach Launching & Recovery System

By Keith Henderson at September 06, 2011 22:44
Filed Under: General

The UK Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has struggled for over a century to find a solution to the problem of launching a lifeboat into the surf from a beach location. Many brave attempts in early days some even using horse driven carts have ended in tragedy. More recent solutions have shown good results and the latest launch and recovery system announced, following recent tests, offer a safer and more practical solution.

Supacat Ltd, England has developed a special partially submersible tractor and powered carriage system with hydraulically operated cradle to ensure a rapid successful launch of the new Shannon Class rescue lifeboat in heavy surf conditions.The versatile system also allows swift recovery to the beach, if required.

To launch the lifeboat, according to the state of the tide, the tractor moves the combination down the beach into the surf. The angle of the cradle slipway is adjusted, the lifeboat engines fired up and the launch initiated. The angled launch provides sufficient momentum for the lifeboat to surge through the first waves until the impellers are submerged and able to provide sufficient propulsive force to drive the boat forwards and away from the dangerous beach surf.

The tractor is powered by a waterproofed 13 litre V8 Scania DC13 diesel engine of 450 hp (331 kW) powering four software controlled tracks. The direct coupled trailer with hydraulically angled launchway has a set of plastic keel rollers to carry the 17 ton weight of the lifeboat while ensuring rapid launching and recovery. An important feature of the trailer is that it has a 360 degree turntable allowing for bow on recovery yet after a 180 degree rotation can effect a bow launch.

The tractor carriage combination has an overall length of 67 ft (20.3 m) and width is 11.5 ft (3.5 m)
The prototype Shannon Class lifeboat has a crew of five and an LOA of 45 ft (13.6 m), beam 15 ft (4.6 m) and 2.5 ft (0.75 m) draft. Twin Scania DI 13M diesels rated at 650 hp (485 kW) power two Hamilton waterjets giving a top speed of around 25 kt.

The full test program is expected to be completed by mid 2012 with delivery of the production launch and recovery system in 2013.


A drawing of the tractor-trailer combination.
Image credit: Supacat Ltd


Photo of an actual launch
Image credit: RNLI / Supacat Ltd

Comments (4) -

Wow !

I wonder what the surf height limitation is.  Anyone?

Rick Fistrovic |     9/7/2011 3:21:05 PM #

If they are struglling over many years and are obviously using established locations then perhaps a breakwater would be more appropriate and cheaper to maintain in the longer term, while also reducing risk to the amazing people that volunteer for lifeboat service.

High tech solution will require high cost maintenance

Tom Harris |     9/7/2011 6:07:20 PM #

I would venture to guess that the area of launching is not a narrow strip of beach, but rather a long coastline where it's quicker to trailer in the boat close to the casualty site and launch.  Of course, you have to be able to reach the beach, with the launching crawler too; probably 2 heavy duty 4X4 trucks are required, each pulling pulling a trailer.

Rick Fistrovic |     9/7/2011 7:01:45 PM #

Well. I guess that's the end of this discussion due to a faulty bearing with the resultant unknown heading over uncharted waters.

Bye to all.


Rick Fistrovic |     10/2/2011 6:09:21 PM #

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