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Lifeboat volunteers get a much needed new facility

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Lifeboat and Hovercraft Station- Southend on Sea

Averaging 100 ‘shouts’ per year, Southend on Sea has one of the busiest lifeboat stations in the country – since it was established in 1879 over 2,000 lives have been saved.

Working alongside Sheerness and Gravesend stations, the crew at Southend provides coverage for the ever growing amount of river usage in the Thames estuary.

The station is part of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute which provides, on call, 24-hour service necessary to cover search and rescue requirements to 50 miles out from the coast of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Currently the facilities comprise a small building housing the inshore D-class lifeboat and a temporary hovercraft shed, which also accommodates the volunteers’ personal protective equipment. The hovercraft, which complements the lifeboat, has completed its trials and the opportunity has been taken to bring both craft under one roof.  A launch ramp was constructed in 2011 under a separate contract and in March 2012 work finally began on the construction of a lifeboat and hovercraft station.

Lifeboat and Hovercraft Station- Southend on Sea

Duncan Clark and Beckett were the Architects on the build, and speaking about the old facilities, Mark Smith, Associate, from the practice said:

“The two existing buildings are very basic boatsheds and weren’t really fit for purpose. When you compare the new and old structures now I just wonder how the crew had managed for so long.”

Mark went onto describe the new facilities which are to be fully operational in January 2013, he said:

“The new building has got a combined hall to house the hovercraft and D-class lifeboat, changing facilities, a meeting room upstairs for hosting training events, a lifeboat operations office and repair room for working on suits and equipment. The new station is a much more comfortable, functional environment for the volunteer crew.”

Lifeboat and Hovercraft Station- Southend on Sea

When asked about the work remaining, Mark said:

“Following construction of the new building we now have to carry out the demolition of the old station structures to create improved external facilities. This will allow for greater maneuverability of the hovercraft and lifeboat and also dedicated car parking space for volunteers.”

The build was rather straightforward, aside from a few minor issues which Mark explained:

“It was reasonably straight forward once we got above the ground, we were aware that the area of land under the station was built up. There was an existing concrete revetment below the ground which we had to core through to enable us to insert the new piled foundation, which was the only slight issue.”

Lifeboat and Hovercraft Station- Southend on Sea

The handover of the building to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute took place on Monday 17th December and was not as straightforward as you would expect, being a working lifeboat station on call there is never a quiet moment, as Mark explains:

“We were on site for the day on Monday overseeing the handover and the D-Class inflatable boat was called out twice and it was all systems go. This only reveled further how busy the station was and how much of a necessity this new building and facilities are.”

Duncan Clark and Beckett are Chartered Architects and have had a long history working with the RNLI, over the last 20 years the practice has been building stations as far up as the North Norfolk coast and as far south as Brighton. In addition, the practice has also built several stations on the south coast of Ireland.

Lifeboat and Hovercraft Station- Southend on Sea

The practice was founded in Colchester, Essex in 1908 and prides itself on the quality of both their design work and personal service offered to clients, no matter what the size and budget of the project.

RG Carters were the main contractors for the project – the company has its foundations rooted in a traditional set of values which are based upon honesty, trust and the development of long term relationships.

EJ Thurston ltd expertly completed all the electrical works at the Southend on Sea station, the company has had a relationship with marine electrics since 1972 and they were therefore the obvious choice when considering an electrical contractor.

The National Flooring Company Ltd was responsible for the installation of a slip resistant resin flooring system on the project. The company has a long history working with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute and has been providing services for the charity for the past five years.

Lifeboat and Hovercraft Station- Southend on Sea

The National Flooring Company Ltd Marketing & Sales Manager, Anna Simpson, said:

“Working with the RNLI we have been involved with a number of refurbishment and new build stations. We understand the necessity of the lifeboat stations and the importance of getting them back into action and therefore we use a resin which is fully cured within just two hours. This in turn allows us to minimise the installation time whilst still offering an extremely hard wearing and durable system.”

Anna added:

“We work very closely with all our clients and contractors to ensure high levels of customer service and minimal disruption during each job. The RNLI is an exceptional charity and we are extremely pleased to be involved with them.”

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