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New lifeboat service launched at Gravesend

TEN lifeboatmen and up to 40 volunteers will man a new lifeboat station launched on the River Thames at Gravesend. The service will be manned 24 hours a day.

The Gravesend station is one of three opened on the Thames this week following pressure from the families of the victims of the Marchioness tragedy 11 years ago. Fifty-one young people lost their lives. The families have insisted that the busiest river in Europe should have a rescue service.

It is costing the RNLI £2 million a year to equip and man the three stations. The Gravesend station is next to the Port of London Authority building and will use the Royal Terrace Pier as a mooring for its experimental rescue boat. It is a temporary home while the RNLI tries to find a more permanent one for their estuary operation.

Station manager Ian Dunkley said: "We shall be able to get to any incident on the river within 15 minutes. The Tiger craft we are using can do 40 knots."

Chris Pond, the Gravesham MP who represented the Marchioness Families, was aboard one of the Adsteam tugs as Tiger 002 demonstrated its manoeuverability. He said: "This is a great tribute to those families who campaigned so hard to get this facility on the river. It is a lasting memorial to the 51 young people who died."

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