Last year a rift developed between the UK-based charity and the Jersey volunteers following the sacking of coxswain Andy Hibbs in April, eventually leading to calls for an independent service to be set up. Despite Mr Hibbs’s reinstatement in June, tensions remained and came to a head in November when the RNLI closed the St Helier station and took the all-weather lifeboat back to Poole.
A new crew are now being trained to use the vessel, which returned to the Island and is expected to be back in full service next month.
The campaign for Jersey to set up its own independent service has since gathered momentum. A petition asking the States to give formal backing to the project has been lodged and is due to be debated next month. It received almost 7,000 signatures.
Guernsey’s harbourmaster, Captain Chad Murray, has been asked to review the events of last year with the intention of providing a report ahead of the debate on 20 March.
Under the terms of reference set out by the Economic Development Department, Captain Murray has been asked to investigate:
The walkout of the St Helier crew on 7 April following Mr Hibbs’s sacking.
The subsequent reinstatement of Mr Hibbs on 28 June.
The withdrawal from service of St Helier’s all-weather lifeboat, George Sullivan, on 17 November.
Environment Minister Steve Luce, a former member of the St Catherine’s RNLI lifeboat crew, said that he hoped the report would help prevent similar problems happening in the future.
‘The Guernsey Harbourmaster has been commissioned to produce a report to help inform States Members about the background into the events that led to the breakdown of the relationship and make recommendations about search and rescue provision in Jersey,’ he said.
‘The intention of this report is to ensure that Jersey has advice on providing the best possible service for the future and to minimise the chances of any repeat of the events of last year.
‘It is my hope that the report and the recommendations will be produced in good time to inform Members’ preparations for the March debate on a proposed independent lifeboat service.’
The appointment of Captain Murray has drawn criticism from supporters of the independent lifeboat service, however.
The formation of an independent charity called the Jersey Lifeboat Association was approved in the Royal Court earlier this month. The association hopes to have a new boat in service within weeks.