Based just under Waterloo Bridge on the north side of the Thames, Tower Lifeboat is the dedicated search and rescue resource for central London, covering 16 miles of the Thames between Barking Creek and Battersea.


We are the RNLI’s busiest station. London is a densely populated capital city with a well used river.


Unlike coastal crews who respond to pagers, we ensure that there is a full crew on the station 24/7 and 365 days a year. To enable that to happen, our volunteer crew of 55 work at least two 12hr shifts per month at the station, supported by 10 permanent crew.


In addition to search and rescue we have a proactive marine safety and accident prevention role. We patrol the river at busy times including large events such as boat races, New Year and other festivities.  The lifeboat is often tasked to provide first aid treatment to passengers on tour and party boats, and to assist the recovery of bodies from the river. We provide a measure of assurance with our presence in a variety of situations.

Our history

A new search and rescue service for the River Thames was announced on 22 January 2001. The RNLI was asked by the UK government to provide lifeboat cover —  the first time ever covering a river rather than estuarial waters. This came as a result of the findings of the Thames Safety Inquiries into the collision between the pleasure cruiser The Marchioness and the dredger Bowbelle, which resulted in the loss of 51 lives in 1989.


Since Tower Lifeboat Station opened on 2nd January 2002 at noon, there have been 7573 launches with 303 lives saved. These numbers continues to rise, whilst we have launched 85 times to date in 2019 (as of 06.03.19). Originally stationed at Tower Pier next to the Tower of London, the lifeboat station quickly established the RNLI within the river community. 


The Lifeboat Station has since moved to purpose built facilities in the former Waterloo Police Pier. Uniquely we retain the name of our original location, Tower.




As a charity, we rely on the incredible work of our fundraisers and generosity of our supporters to be able to continue saving lives.


We are often asked how much it costs to make sure all the crew have the right kit and how much it costs to run the lifeboat — below are a few examples of some of our costs.


Equipment to key our crews safe:

  • Rescue Storm Jacket — £500

  • Rescue Storm trousers — £350

  • Under jackets — £110

  • Thermal vest —  £95

  • Thermal base layers, top — £65

  • Thermal base layers, bottoms — £65

  • RNLI wellies — £55

  • Safety boots — £98

  • Helmet & comms: £374

  • Thermal top & trousers: £107


And for our boat and station:

  • Collapsible stretcher: £275

  • Spine board: £100

  • Hand-held VHF radio: £80

  • On-board camera: £186

  • Boat repairs, maintenance and fuel: £45,000

  • Station repairs, maintenance and utilities: £25,000

Visiting Tower RNLI Station

You are welcome to visit the station by prior appointment, giving at least 14 days notice. Visits are possible on weekdays or at weekends, during the day or in the evening, except on Monday mornings, the first day of each month, the first Tuesday evening of each month, and from 6-7:30pm each evening.


The station is floating on a tidal river and is accessed by a ramp which slopes down quite steeply when the tide is low. It also jolts around in the wash of passing vessels at times, so if you suffer from seasickness please take precautions before coming. Access around the station is by an outside walkway grill separated from the river by just a railing, so you will need to wear flat footwear and outdoor clothes appropriate for the weather.  A small range of souvenirs are available for visitors to buy, but there are no public toilets.


The maximum number for a group visit is normally 18. Group visits usually last about 1½ hours and include an introduction to the RNLI and Tower Lifeboat Station, a tour of the station facilities with a talk about the lifeboat from one of the crew, and a chance to see video footage of rescues. However, the lifeboat can be called out any time, so the programme for a visit may have to change on the day if the crew are on a ‘shout’ or the station facilities are required for an emergency.


The RNLI has standard terms and conditions for visits to its working lifeboat stations.  Once a visit is booked, you will need to sign a copy of these for the visit to go ahead.  You can see them here, and if you are planning a visit with children please note the minimum ratio of adults to children.

Booking a visit

To arrange a visit, please contact our visits officer:

  • by email to [email protected]

  • by phone on 07516 000249

  • by post to RNLI Tower Lifeboat Station, Lifeboat Pier, Victoria Embankment, Westminster, London WC2R 2PP.


For a group visit, please download, complete and send us the Visit Request form


We will contact you with any questions and to arrange the visit.