The IMRF has 113 members from 54 countries around the world. Our members might be large or small, newly-formed or long-established. Sometimes our members are charities, private or public agencies, supporting organisations and industries. Still, they are all welcome and we all work to develop and improve maritime search and rescue (SAR) capacity around the world.

In the first of a regular feature, we’ve talked to one of our new members to find out more about what they do and what that means for the international SAR community.

We’ve spoken to Anthony Tomkins, Global Business Development Manager, to find out more about HamiltonJet and its work to advance technology within the maritime search and rescue (SAR) sector.

HamiltonJet makes propulsion systems that turn unwieldy propeller-driven boats into agile and maneuverable vessels. Since its introduction, jet propulsion technology has vastly increased the range of conditions that a SAR boat can operate within.

HamiltonJet’s parent company, CWF Hamilton & Co Ltd, was formed back in 1939. Waterjets were initially developed in the early 1950s, and Sir William Hamilton, the company’s founder, worked to apply the new technology to commercial waterjet design. 

He developed a steerable jet of water, that could be fitted to the underside of a boat which led to a breakthrough moment when he tried repositioning the waterjet above the waterline.

The US Navy’s adoption of a jet propelled patrol boat for its armed forces in Vietnam in 1966 was a dramatic development for the waterjet propulsion industry. 

Able to move at high speeds in shallow water, reliable and quiet, the river patrol boat became the backbone of US activities.

Today, the HamiltonJet waterjet is one of the most advanced and innovative marine propulsion systems available. The company is increasingly involved in developing vessel autonomy solutions in conjunction with its waterjet technologies. 

HamiltonJet’s first remote controlled vessel was commissioned in 1993. Since then the company has worked in collaboration to equip a fleet of over 170 vessels with some form of autonomy or advanced skipper assistance across multiple regions, customers and applications.

Over the last 25 years HamiltonJet has focused exclusively on waterjet propulsion technology for different sectors, including: offshore, pilot boats, SAR vessels, fire, patrol and military, wind farms, fast ferry, fishing and recreational boats.

Waterjet propulsion gives SAR teams the increased flexibility and speed required to make rescues in environments that were considered off-limits in the past.

Waterjet propulsion has several unique advantages including rapid braking and reversing, offering increased agility and allowing a tighter turning circle, alongside improved durability, controllability and ease of use over other forms of propulsion.

Because waterjet propulsion does not use propulsion appendages below the hull, the boats can operate in very shallow waters and in conditions that would damage traditional propellers.

The lack of external moving parts also allows vessels with waterjets to beach themselves without incident.

HamiltonJet and the RNLI’s Shannon Class Lifeboat

As the national service providing SAR around the coast of the UK and Ireland the RNLI conducts SAR operations in all weather conditions, where time is at a premium.

The boats must be quick and extremely nimble, able to operate in shallow water with rocky outcrops or debris and handle powerful riptides.

The RNLI's latest addition to its fleet, the Shannon, is the first all-weather lifeboat to use waterjet propulsion. Introduced in 2014, the Shannon is well-suited to time-sensitive SAR operations, being 50 per cent faster than its predecessor. Boats with propellers have trouble making sharp turns or braking hard, which strains their gearbox. 

At the high speeds typically seen in SAR operations, the Shannon’s waterjet engines are more efficient than propeller propulsion and the waterjets give her a high degree of mobility while placing less strain on the engines and gearbox.

The Shannon’s unique hull design and shock-absorbing seats provide more stability when powering through waves.

The waterjet propulsion enables the Shannon to operate in water that would be too shallow or risky to traditional, propeller systems, including close by stricken vessels and around beaching hazards, making the Shannon the most agile and adaptable vessel in the RNLI fleet.

The vessel has a 25-year lifespan, her hull and wheelhouse will serve at least for 50 years and waterjets, like the ones offered by HamiltonJet, will ensure that the Shannon will go on to provide lifesaving cover around the coast of the UK and Ireland for decades to come.                                                      

"The manoeuvrability of a jet-driven boat is phenomenal – it really has to be seen to be believed. The launch and recovery equipment helps us get safely back to shore, no matter what the conditions."

Trevor Bunney, Mechanic, Dungeness RNLI
(the first lifeboat station to receive one of the Shannon lifeboats)


Anthony Tomkins, Global Business Development Manager, says:As a company, we have more than 70 years of expertise in this area, and we are focused on developing the latest and most appropriate technology to support the work of important vessels like those used in maritime SAR.  Our work and development research involve a two-way dialogue with the end-user to ensure it does meet their needs.   Waterjets have transformed the capabilities of vessels like this – which all helps to save more lives at sea.


To find out more about HamiltonJet visit: