Chiswick Lifeboat Plays Leading Role in Major Search and Rescue Exercise

Designed to test responses of police, fire and ambulance services amongst others

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Chiswick Lifeboat was one of three RNLI Lifeboats playing a leading role in a major search and rescue exercise on the Thames last week.

A broken down commercial vessel and a damaged passenger boat provided the emergency scenario in Operation Orangetree on Thursday 30 September.

The exercise, coordinated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, simulated a collision between a passenger vessel and a commercial vessel just below Tower Bridge. A fire on one and severe damage to the other were also part of the scenario, which resulted in several 'casualties' - weighted, lifelike dummies - in the River Thames.

The exercise was designed to test the emergency responses of not only RNLI lifeboats stationed on the Thames, but also the police, fire and ambulance services, London Coastguard, the Port of London Authority, the Passenger Boat Association, and other related agencies.

This is the first time a major exercise like this has taken place during the hours of darkness. The evening schedule upped the ante for all agencies involved, providing an opportunity for all to test their response to a potential major incident on Britain’s busiest waterway.

Tower RNLI and Gravesend RNLI lifeboats were tasked with search and recovery of the 'casualties' from the river, downstream. Meanwhile, Chiswick was tasked with evacuating the remaining casualties onboard the passenger vessel.

Andrew Ashton, RNLI Divisional Inspector, said: ‘The Thames is an extremely busy river and it is quite conceivable that a major incident could happen, one which requires a coordinated approach by several agencies.

‘As the charity that saves lives at sea and on the River Thames, the RNLI would be a key player in any real life emergency, hence we were heavily involved in the exercise’ Link to Video:

• The RNLI has 233 lifeboat stations including four on the Thames. Chiswick RNLI lifeboat became operational on the 2nd January 2002. Since then it has responded to over 1,600 emergency calls. The four Thames lifeboats together have responded to over 5,000 calls. To learn more about the lifeboat station go to

• The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and Government and is entirely supported by voluntary contributions


October 4, 2010