RNLI appoints new leader to take charity into third century of lifesaving

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has announced that its new Chief Executive will be Peter Sparkes.

Peter, who is currently the Chief Executive of the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), will take up the post of Chief Executive on 26 June and will lead the charity through the second half of its 200th anniversary year of saving lives at sea.

Peter brings with him significant operational and leadership experience. Joining the Royal Navy in 1990, he served in a wide variety of appointments, both at sea on operational duty and ashore. Notably, he commanded the frigate HMS Cumberland on counter-piracy patrol off Somalia, and the 46 units of the Portsmouth Flotilla. In late 2019, he served in Washington DC as the UK Chief of Defence Staff’s Liaison Officer to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon.

Peter became the Acting Chief Executive of the UKHO in July 2020 and was subsequently appointed Chief Executive in April 2021, leaving the Royal Navy to take up the permanent role. He has led the globally significant maritime safety organisation throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, initiating the UKHO’s transformational shift to becoming a truly digital organisation.

Janet Legrand, Chair of the RNLI, said: ‘We are delighted to appoint Peter Sparkes as the next Chief Executive of the RNLI. He is a proven and accomplished leader and a great communicator with a strong sense of service.

‘He has clearly demonstrated his passion for and understanding of the RNLI and its volunteering ethos and is a volunteer himself for a homeless charity in the south west.

‘Peter has had a highly successful career to date and the RNLI Board is confident he has the right skills, experience and gravitas to take the RNLI forward into its third century of saving lives at sea.’

Peter has previous first-hand experience of the lifesaving work the RNLI does. While serving in the Royal Navy as Commanding Officer of HMS Cumberland, Peter provided support to Torbay lifeboat in 2008 during the rescue of the Ice Prince, for which RNLI Coxswain Mark Criddle was awarded a Silver Medal. Peter attended the gallantry medal presentations at Berry Head Hotel.

At the time of this rescue Peter commented that it was a great privilege to see the determined efforts to take the last eight people off the vessel. He noted how well the coxswain handled the lifeboat in extremely challenging conditions and that the actions shown upheld the finest traditions of the RNLI, earning deserved respect from all involved.

Commenting on his appointment, Peter said: ‘I am thrilled to have been selected as the new Chief Executive of the RNLI. It is an enormous privilege and honour to be asked to lead such a precious institution as it embarks on a new watch.

‘I have always followed the RNLI with great interest and am looking forward to being part of the crew.’

The RNLI’s current Chief Executive, Mark Dowie, has been in post since May 2019 and will leave the RNLI on 26 June.

On Mark’s contribution, Janet said: ‘Mark has been the right leader at the right time for the RNLI.

‘The past 5 years have been some of the most turbulent in our 200-year history – dealing with the impact of the pandemic and rising inflation, a significant increase in demand, and heightened public scrutiny, especially in response to small boat crossings in the Channel.

‘He has tackled criticism head-on, reaffirming the RNLI’s vision to save every one. This has not been without risk, but he has unashamedly stayed true to the RNLI’s purpose throughout, generating amazing support, income, sector-wide recognition, and new heights of brand awareness.

‘He has much to be proud of, not least maintaining a 24/7 rescue service throughout and ensuring he has brought the RNLI’s people with him on a journey through turbulent times.’



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