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Major milestone as Island’s independent lifeboat arrives

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THE Jersey Lifeboat Association reached one of the most important milestones in its short history last night – when its first vessel arrived in the Island.

Sir Max Aitken III is greeted by Islanders as it arrives at the Harbour. Picture: JON GUEGAN (21711984)

On Monday, a small team picked up the £80,000 former RNLI Tyne-Class lifeboat in Great Yarmouth before travelling to New Haven on the south-east coast of England.

And yesterday, at around 9 am, Andy Hibbs and his crew set off from the East Sussex town, and navigated major shipping lanes before making their way to the Channel Islands.

The JLA has put a deposit of £2,500 down on the boat, with the outstanding amount due to be paid off in instalments.

Former Senator Ben Shenton, the chairman of the association, said he thought Islanders would have more confidence in donating to the organisation now that they had secured a vessel.

‘We have a big team of fundraisers and we will use this boat as part of our fundraising effort and use it to establish our profile in the Island,’ he said.

‘We are now very close to having a proper fully independent lifeboat in Jersey – this is not a dream or an aspiration anymore.

‘Certainly when I talk to potential donors they say “we will wait and see how things go, you have not even got a boat yet”.

‘The fact that we now have a boat and a growing organisation, I think will give people the confidence to donate,’ he added.

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Before being laid-up in a yard in Great Yarmouth, the vessel, Sir Max Aitken III, was based at the RNLI’s Bembridge station in the Isle of Wight between 1987 and 2009.

It was also in the RNLI’s reserve fleet in Poole for some time after 2009 before it was sold to a private owner.

The Tyne-Class vessel is of the same type as the former St Helier all-weather lifeboat Alexander Coutanche – which was retired from service in Jersey in 2009.

Mr Shenton added that he was pleased with how long it had taken to obtain a vessel given that the JLA had only been formally registered as a charity in February.

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‘It seems like a long time coming, but if you think that the Jersey Lifeboat Association was only established as a charity in February and now we have a boat, it is very pleasing.

‘This is the result of a tremendous amount of work by a number of people. We are not paid and all have full-time jobs and have done this alongside the other things that we have to do.

‘Getting this far from a standing start has not been easy.’

The JLA announced that they would be setting up their own independent service last November following a long-running dispute between the former St Helier Lifeboat crew and the RNLI.

At its worst point, the row led to the RNLI changing the locks on the lifeboat station and recalling the charity’s £2.6 million Tamar-class vessel to Poole while they put a temporary crew in place.

And earlier this year the JEP revealed that questions surrounded whether the JLA would be able to operate the Sir Max Aitken III, due to a covenant being in place on the vessel.

All vessels which previously belonged to the RNLI have a clause attached to them preventing them from being used as lifeboats in UK or Irish waters. The Channel Islands are legally defined under international law as being in UK territorial waters.

The covenant also means that when the vessel is sold on, any future buyer is required to comply with the terms and the seller has to inform the purchaser.

The RNLI has since said that it is ‘likely’ to waive the covenant, but warned that it would be ‘prepared to pursue legal action’ to ensure that the boat was repainted in colours which ‘adequately differentiate it’ from vessels in the RNLI’s fleet.

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