Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) - Built for Rescue
Wayne Spivak, National Press Corps, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
August 15, 2004
Almost every major Navy and Coast Guard has them in their inventory. No, their not named, and they arent usually found in Janes Fighting Ships either. But, they are an important part of many major sea services. What type of vessel are they? They are Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats, commonly referred to as RHIBs or RIBs.
What exactly is a RIB?
They are typically glass-reinforced or aluminum hulls to which a multi-compartment buoyancy tube is attached. RIBs have stringers and which support a deck. In addition, they also have a collar that has multiple air chambers, each fitted with separate fill and relief valves.
Many of the collars have a built-in bolt-rope system to enable other boats or people to grab hold of during a rescue. These collars also allow impacts to be absorbed, protecting the rest the boat and personnel. The inflatable collar makes the RIB extremely versatile by providing high stability and the ability to fender off vessels without damage.
Powered by either a single or dual gasoline or diesel engines, with either outboard, inboard/outboard stern drive, or jet drive, these boats can carry as few as three and some as many as eighteen people. Speed is dependent on the size and power plant, but some can reach speeds in excess of 40 knots.
Why are they so popular as a rescue vehicle?
There are several reasons why RIBs have gained in popularity as both recreational as well as rescue craft. Prime among these is the durability of the craft for many types of sea states. The United States Coast Guard requirement for its new WPB (87"Marine Protector Class" Coastal Patrol Boat (CPB)) was that the patrol boat be able to operate in Sea State Five (10 foot waves) and launch and retrieve a small craft in Sea State Four (7 foot waves).
RIBs have the ability to withstand these unfavorable sea conditions, as well as absorb the beatings that these wave heights that would stress traditional fiberglass or wood vessels.The large availability of different manufacturers and power plants has also added to their popularity.
Other reasons for the popularity of RIBs in the rescue community include its ability to provide a fast response and its shallow water capabilities. These factors make RIBs an excellent vessel for conducting the Law Enforcement as well as rescue missions.
In a report title Worldwide Assessment of Stern Launch Capability by Rubin Sheinberg, Christopher Cleary, and Thomas Beukema of the U.S. Coast Guards Engineering Logistics Center spoke about the advantages of the RIB: The outboard powered RHIB is very responsive to throttle and very maneuverable. All the diesel powered small boats used water jet propulsion with the exception of the Navys 7-meter RHIB that used an I/O drive. The larger 11-meter boats used twin water jets for propulsion. The advantage of the water jets is there is no appendage that hangs below the hull to interfere with launch and recovery operations.
RIBs in action
Rescue services from Canada to Australia, Great Brittan to the United States rely on Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats to service inland, bay, near coastal and ocean rescues, law enforcement and environmental missions. It is because these vessels offer such a wealth of different mission platform support, that they have become indispensable tools of the International Search and Rescue (SAR) Community.
This release re-printed with permission from The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is the civilian, uniformed volunteer component of the United States Coast Guard, as well as the lead volunteer force in the Department of Homeland Security. Founded in 1939 by an Act of Congress as the US Coast Guard Reserves and re-designated the Auxiliary in 1941. The 38,000 volunteer members (men and women) donate thousands of hours in support of Coast Guard missions, such as Search & Rescue, Public Education, Marine Environmental Protection and Maritime Domain Awareness.