Lifeboat crews will always be ready to rescue when the call for help comes in. But with commercial fishing being one of the most dangerous peacetime occupations, how can the RNLI help our fishermen to improve their chances before help arrives?

In January, a group of fishermen got a taste of the debilitating effects that cold water can bring when they took part in a series of exercises in the RNLI’s sea survival pool at RNLI College in Poole.

The RNLI’s Fishing Safety Team created real-life sea conditions to ensure the fishermen were fully aware of the dangers and challenges of man overboard situations.

The pool - which is used to train our volunteer lifeboat crew - features realistic seawater temperatures and can replicate artificial waves, as well as simulating rain and wind.

Man overboard: A fisherman experiences real-life conditions in the RNLI's sea survival poolPhoto: RNLI/Nathan Williams
Man overboard: A fisherman experiences real-life conditions in the RNLI's sea survival pool

The 2-day event put the fishermen through a variety of realistic scenarios, helping them improve their survival and recovery techniques in a safe and controlled environment.

Participants compared being in the water with and without flotation devices. They also practised recovering a man overboard and learned about cold water shock with experts from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and the University of Portsmouth.

Frankie Horne, RNLI Fishing Safety Manager, says: 'Most training is done in warm water pools but these fishermen experienced the same water temperatures they would face in real life.

‘They all walked away having done something positive. For some it was finding an easier way to get off their boats, for others it was about wearing lifejackets and encouraging others to as well.’

‘Without a lifejacket, I’d have only had a couple of minutes’

‘When I first started on the boats, we did man overboard and liferaft training - but not practical exercises like this', says Stuart Caley, a crab and lobster fisherman from the Isle of Man.

Fisherman
Stuart Caley - one of the fishermen who took part in the RNLI fishing safety
training event
Fisherman Stuart Caley - one of the fishermen who took part in the RNLI fishing safety training event

‘I felt much more relaxed with the lifejacket on, knowing it would keep me afloat. I also felt warmer once I’d relaxed a bit - not so tense and shivery.

‘I could have stayed in there longer with the lifejacket and not been in too much trouble. I mean, it was still cold but I wasn’t worried. It was a big weight off my mind.’

From choosing a lifejacket to advice on vessel stability and deck machinery, learn more about how we’re helping to keep commercial fishermen safe on the job.