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The JLA Story

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Events Leading to the Formation of the Jersey Lifeboat Association (JLA)

The formation of the Jersey Lifeboat Association (JLA) arose from a series of troubling events, characterized by internal conflict, administrative failures and allegations of misconduct that plagued the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) crew in Jersey. These events, starting from 2011, highlight a tragic scenario of mismanagement and miscommunication, which eventually led to the establishment of the JLA.

Early Conflicts and Bullying (2011-2012)

Around 2011, the RNLI crew in Jersey began experiencing significant internal issues due to bullying by one crew member. Despite numerous complaints and letters to the RNLI about this individual’s behaviour, no action was taken. This individual's connections with Jersey Coastguard were used to further malign the coxswain, A. Hibbs, and the crew. Malicious and untrue allegations were relayed to the Harbourmaster, who then passed this misinformation to the RNLI CEO.

Maintenance Issues and Operational Failures

Simultaneously, the RNLI was failing to maintain the lifeboats adequately. On one occasion, a rescue operation was jeopardized by a burst water pipe in the engine room. Attempts to appoint a station mechanic from outside the island violated local employment laws and, during another incident, an ill crew mechanic had to participate in a rescue operation because the standby mechanic was unavailable.

Coastguard and Harbourmaster Issues

The relationship between the lifeboat crew and the coastguard was also fraught with problems. In one rescue operation under severe weather conditions, the instructions from the Coastguard Officer were dangerously incompetent, risking the lives of the crew. The Harbourmaster's alleged ignorance about search and rescue operations further exacerbated the situation.

Escalation and Coxswain's Dismissal (2017)

In January 2017, a new RNLI Area Manager was appointed, intensifying the existing conflicts. This culminated in what the crew described as a kangaroo court, leading to the dismissal of Coxswain A. Hibbs. The entire crew resigned in protest. Although Hibbs' appeal was successful and the RNLI formally apologized to the crew, the relationship between the crew and the Area Manager remained strained, leading to further resignations.

Decision to Go Independent and RNLI's Betrayal

In October 2017, the RNLI proposed that the crew either stay with the RNLI or go independent, promising support for either decision. However, in November 2017, during a meeting at Cyril le Marquand House, the crew was informed of their dismissal, and the RNLI lifeboat was removed from Jersey. This action, seen as collusion between the RNLI, several ministers and the Harbourmaster, left Jersey without a lifeboat and crew.

Formation of the JLA (2018)

In response to these events, the former RNLI crew established the Jersey Lifeboat Association (JLA) as a charitable organization in 2018. The majority of supporters abandoned the RNLI also in support and disgust of the RNLI behaviour.

Over the past six years, the JLA has successfully conducted numerous rescue missions with their fleet, including the all-weather lifeboat Sir Max Aitken and the fast-response RIB Albert Pinel.

The JLA has fostered a professional relationship with Search and Rescue and Ports of Jersey and developed one of the most advanced Safety crews in the UK. Unlike other SAR assets the JLA have heat seeking, Defibrillators and massive pump capacity along with one of the fastest Rib combinations in the UK.

Unfortunately this history is not unique to Jersey and, consequently, an Independent Association of Lifeboats was created - of which Jersey is a proud member.

For those wanting more detail, the Report by Sir David Calvert-Smith QC is available here.