Two RNLI Sunderland volunteers pass the test

14 April 2011

Two of Sunderland’s newest Royal National Lifeboat Institutions volunteers have successfully completed a Lifeboat Crew training course at the charities own specialist training centre.

Darren Johnson, 26, an Emergency Care Worker for North East Ambulance Service and Andrew Gillies, 30, an optometrist at Specsavers South Shields branch have both returned from ‘Lifeboat College’ in Poole, Dorset, with a week’s specialist lifeboat crew training under their belts.

The Trainee Lifeboat Crew course covered all the core skills required to take part in rescue missions onboard any of the charities inshore or All Weather lifeboats. These skills included fire fighting, sea survival, emergency drills (inc. Capsize Procedures), Navigation, as well as specialist Search and Rescue skills. All of which will be invaluable to Darren and Andrew’s role of saving lives at sea.

Andrew and Darren have both been part of Sunderland’s RNLI’s sea-going crew for a little over nine months after being promoted from the stations shore crew. They are both required to attend the course as part of their initial one year sea going training programme to ensure that they are capable of taking part in any search and rescue mission.

Andrew said: “Darren and I both joined the RNLI with no previous maritime experience; so training of this quality and intensity is essential to allow us to carry out our role as a lifeboat crewmember. Our lifeboats often go to sea when others are heading for the safety of the harbour; so it is essential that we learn how to look after ourselves as well the skills required to carry out the job of saving lives at sea.’

The RNLI Lifeboat College was opened in 2003 by Her Majesty the Queen and is equipped with an integrated survival centre, a full size lifeboat simulator, a live engine workshop, and a wave tank, which is used for rescue scenarios and to train crews to right a capsized inshore lifeboat. Annually over two thousand lifeboat volunteers take part in residential training courses at the college.

Each year it costs the charity £20,000 to provide essential training for the 20-strong Sunderland based volunteer lifeboat crew, all of which is funded by voluntary donations.

Last August the charity was presented with a cheque for just over £7,000 by Northumbrian Water’s chief executive, Heidi Mottram during a joint sea-going training exercise between Sunderland and Tynemouth RNLI Lifeboats.

The donation was the latest from Northumbrian Water who has supported the Royal National Lifeboat Institution through its Care for Safety Challenge since the initiative began in April 2004 and has donated £44,268 in total to Sunderland RNLI Lifeboat Station.

The Care for Safety challenge uses raising money for charity as an incentive for employees to think more about health and safety at work. Donations are made when workers report and address health and safety issues and concerns, report accidents and near misses and complete accident and incident reports, which all go towards reducing accidents and contribute to safer working. This challenge has triggered payments worth £309,880 to a number of charities over the past six and a half years.

Martin Andrew, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Sunderland RNLI said ‘As less than 10 percent of our operational volunteers join the charity with a professional sea-faring background; training of this type is essential to allow our volunteers to operate safely and effectively. This level and quality of training does not come cheap; so we are extremely grateful to Northumbrian Water for funding the course for Andrew and Darren. Successfully completing this course will be stepping stone to both volunteers going on save many lives during their RNLI career’.

As a registered charity the RNLI relies on voluntary donations and legacies from the public for its income.

• Sunderland RNLI Lifeboat Station is the oldest continually operation lifeboat in the United Kingdom. It was originally opened in 1800 before being adopted by the RNLI in 1865.

• Sunderland RNLI Lifeboat Station operates its own website where supporters can keep up to date with station specific activities.

• Sunderland RNLI Lifeboat Station has a profile on Twitter (SunderlandRNLI) and Facebook (RNLI Sunderland) where supporters can keep up to date with station specific activities and news.

• Sunderland RNLI Lifeboat Station operates two inshore type lifeboats: An Atlantic 85 8.3m inflatable capable of 35 knots and a D Class (IB-1) 4.5m inflatable capable of 25 knots.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone either:

Paul Nicholson, Sunderland RNLI Press Officer on 07957 494 077 or email - or

Anthony Jobling, Sunderland RNLI Assistant Press Officer on 07977 152 399 or email –

As an alternative please contact Alison Levett, Media Relations Manager North on 07786 668 912 or or RNLI Headquarters Public Relations on 01202 336 000.

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