Swanland shipwreck took 300 hours, RNLI Wales figures show

image captionAmateur photographer Richard Burgess took this photo of the Swanland as it set off on its last trip

Efforts to save the crew of a sunken cargo ship contributed to a record number of hours lifeboats in Wales were at sea in 2011.

A search and rescue operation was launched when the Swanland sank off Gwynedd in November with the loss of six Russian crew.

RNLI volunteers from Porthdinllaen, Pwllheli, Trearddur Bay, Abersoch and Holyhead spent 300 hours searching.

Lifeboat crews across Wales spent 6,877 hours on emergency calls over the year.

Last year saw lifeboats from the 31 stations in Wales launch on 1,102 occasions, rescuing 1,017 people.

RNLI lifeguards who patrolled 28 beaches over the summer assisted 1,503 people and saved six lives.

The charity said the Swanland sinking was one of the biggest incidents of the year.

Two other Russian crew members were rescued as the vessel was caught in a gale force eight storm.

Machinery failure remained the number one cause of call-outs in the west division, with 201 incidents in 2011, slightly down on the 270 incidents in 2010.

It was followed by launches to vessels thought to be in trouble, with 114 incidents.

Most launches were to powered pleasure craft, accounting for 267, followed by people in the water, accounting for 206.

Across the UK and Ireland the RNLI said it was its second busiest year on record, with lifeboats launching 8,905 times, rescuing 7,976 people.

Colin Williams, divisional inspector for Wales, said: "Nearly half the stations in Wales saw the number of launches at their respective station rise in 2011, as more and more people take to the sea for leisure and recreation.

"The time spent responding to emergencies is just a drop in the ocean, when we consider the additional 19,196 hours they spent training during 2011.

"Our lifeboat volunteers and lifeguards have undoubtedly demonstrated their dedication to saving lives at sea.

"I would like to say a huge thank you to all those who support the RNLI, by volunteering their time or by making a donation."

Last month, the RNLI in Wales launched a campaign to raise £185,500 to fund new life jackets for its volunteer crews.

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