The UK & Ireland's Royal National Lifeboat Institution has had a close association with the Sri Lankan Lifeboat Institution since it was established some 15 years ago, primarily in support of the local artisanal fishing industry.
The fledgling organisation's initial progress was slow, hindered by civil war as well as the problems familiar to all start-ups. However a number of very useful projects have been undertaken, including the issue of lifejackets, radar reflectors and EPIRBs (see LIFE LINE April 2011) and, after the 2004 tsunami, funds to restore and resupply boatyards near Galle.
Now, though, the SLLI has a lifeboat too, thanks to the continuing generosity of Sri Lankan sponsors, the RNLI, and the Chinese shipping company COSCO – who very kindly transported the boat from Felixstowe to Colombo free of charge, after discussions between COSCO Group's chairman, Mr Ma Zehua, and former IMRF chairman Michael Vlasto, following an introduction by former trustee Captain Song Jiahui. Thanks are due too to Malcolm Elvy Transport, who took the boat from the RNLI's centre at Poole to Felixstowe at short notice, to catch COSCO's Hanjin Long Beach.
The lifeboat in question is the 14.3m, 18 knot, self-righting Tyne class known to the RNLI as Robert and Violet, which served at Moelfre Lifeboat Station from 1988 to 2013 and then briefly at Lough Swilly before commencing her journey to the Indian Ocean. She is currently being prepared for operational service and will be based in Colombo.
Here she will continue to save lives; a fine example of the IMRF's 'members assisting members' concept. We hope to bring you news of her in her new home in a future edition of LIFE LINE.
Photos: Robert and Violet at sea in her RNLI days; and ready to lift at Felixstowe.