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Bid to save lifeboat launchers

September 10, 2003 12:12 PM

A threat to specialist lifeboat equipment has taken a step towards being lifted after a unanimous vote by members of the European Parliament's environment committee.

More than 100 lifeboats around the coasts of Britain are launched and recovered by specialist marine tractors that haul them along beaches or slipways. The RNLI uses them at a number of sites across the North West to move lifeboats of up to 15 tonnes in weight.

But their future supply has been threatened by new European laws aimed at cutting pollution from off-road vehicles

David White, managing director of the vehicle manufacturers Clayton Engineering, explains that to install a low emission engine would require major and expensive design changes to the vehicles.

The problem stems from the need to ensure the vehicles do not float and remain stable when towing boats in water over 2m deep. The small space left around the existing engine compartment leaves little room for new the installation of new low emission engines with additional pollution-reducing parts.

Now MEPs have backed a call by North West Liberal Democrat Chris Davies to exempt the tractors from the new law. European Commission officials have indicated that they are unlikely to contest the move.

Mr Davies said that he hoped the move would save the RNLI from having to re-design vehicles by allowing them to continue to use equipment designed before emission requirements were introduced.

He commented: "Everyone wants to cut pollution, but this small number of tractors are used only a few times a year. The next generation of vehicles will have to comply with higher standards but we are all agreed that it is common sense to exempt the existing ones from a burden that would bring about no appreciable improvement in the environment."