Dutch SAR service begins 15-year fleet renewal

IJMUIDEN – The Royal Dutch Lifeboat Institution has begun renewing its fleet of lifeboats. Over the next 15 years, 75 SAR craft of varied sizes will replace boats that are nearing the end of their ‘technical lifespan.’

Valentine-class up for replacement

First up for replacement: 18 Valentine-class vessels (11m/36ft). Taking their place is an 11m upgraded version, known as the Van Wijk-class. The first enters service this summer. Folmer Shipyard built the aluminum hull and Dock & Shipbuilding did the finishing. Habbeké Shipyard, builder of the Valentine-class, will also build four Van Wijks.

Johannes Frederik-class to be phased out

Known by its Dutch acronym of KNRM, the SAR service is privately funded.  It operates 45 stations, most of them along the North Sea, manned by 1,400 volunteers. All KNRM craft meet Lloyd’s approval as they go to sea in severe conditions. The KNRM does that more than 2,000 times a year, helping or rescuing more than 3,000 people at sea or on inland waters. Its fleet ranges from a small boat to craft of 20m.

The organization is funded through donations, bequests and sponsoring and was founded in 1824, the same year as Britain’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution was created. Its fleet renewal is based on an inventory of the experiences and wishes of KNRM’s volunteer rescuers. KNRM investigated if existing ships were available on the market, which was not the case.

KNRM opted for the new Van Wijk-class to be an improved version of the existing Valentine-class, a valued workhorse. De Vries Lentsch designed the Valentine class and the new Van Wijk as well. The latter face stringent testing, including a drop test and a rollover test. The fleet renewal will see the introduction of:

  • the Nh1816/2s, all-weather vessels with an axe bow
  • the Van Wijks which can also be launched from the beach, using a special boat car.
  • two new RIBs to serve either as launching boats or as a rescue station backup.

For the KNRM, 2020 was different due to the coronavirus pandemic. It recorded rescuing 3,831 people, down from 4,258 in 2019 because of a shutdown of the boat charter business.