THE RNLI has awarded a major contract as part of its £11.2m project to build a new lifeboat centre in Poole.

Docking Solutions has been appointed to design, manufacture and build the galvanised steel pontoons and aluminium access structures at the facility.

The pontoons run for a total length of 70 metres on Poole’s North Quay and 40 metres at West Quay.

Each pontoon is up to 23m long and 3.5m wide and they rise and fall with the tide, together with access bankseats, 18m-long ramps and nine metre long steps.

The RNLI has a fleet of more than 340 lifeboats, ranging from 3.8m to 17m, and its 20-year strategy requires it to build six all-weather lifeboats a year, as well as maintaining its existing fleet.

Its new station at Poole is aimed at saving the charity millions of pounds by bringing boat production in-house.

The project – called Coventina – involves the demolition of the existing lifeboat maintenance centre as well as building of the new shipyard and lifeboat centre.

Docking Solutions, based at Totnes in Devon, produces bespoke pontoons, bridges and access systems.

Will Robertson, contracts manager at Docking Solutions, said: “Our work involves major projects all over the country.

We are delighted to be asked to supply these unique pontoons and access systems which will enhance the facilities at the RNLI’s construction facility.”

The building is expected to open next year and be making lifeboats by 2019.

The RNLI says the pool of suppliers which can meet its needs has reduced dramatically as the technology involved in building lifeboats has advanced.

Its website says: “We must act now to safeguard the future of all-weather lifeboat production and the RNLI’s future in saving lives at sea.”