VESSEL REVIEW | Five Bells – Versatile police dive boat for the UK

Cheetah Marine has designed and built a second dive and patrol vessel for specialist police operations.

The 10.2-metre police boat was built for the Yorkshire and the Humber (YATH) Police Regional Underwater Search and Marine Unit to provide 24-hour coverage and replaces two vessels that were previously used by the unit.

The vessel follows the success of the smaller trailerable 7.2-metre vessel built for the Cheshire Police Department in 2012.

Whilst acting as a visible police presence, the core duty of Five Bells is to provide a versatile craft to facilitate the many roles of the Underwater Search and Marine Team which includes diving operations in the inland waterways and the North Sea.

Behind the name

In the world of Police diving, each diver is required to have constant contact with the attendant and supervisor on the surface for instructions and diver safety. This is usually achieved using an underwater radio system. Should this fail, the diver uses a series of rope signals to communicate with his attendant.

Two signals, one long pull of the rope and other short sharp tugs are called “pulls” and “bells”. When combined in various configurations these signals send information between diver and the attendant.

The vessel has been named Five Bells as the meaning for this signal is, “I have found what I am searching for.”

This is a very poignant signal to the team as it is often received as a result of many hours of meticulous searching in arduous conditions.


With twin 300hp (225kW) Mercury Verado outboards producing top speeds in excess of 40 knots, Five Bells can be mobilised rapidly between areas covering the coast of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire together with rivers and estuaries.

Both the vessel and officers will undertake wide and varied tasks including security patrols and border control whilst assisting in searches from intelligence led operations.

Five Bells has demonstrably good slow speed manoeuvrability as well as a very soft cushioned ride, removing the need for heavy and costly suspension seating. Keel bands fitted to the hulls provide protection during shallow draught operation and multi-terrain landings.

“We have moved away from the traditional RIB chosen by the police and purchased a catamaran as this provides better handling, stability and deck space,” commented PC Roger Bennett, Yath Police Regional Underwater Search and Marine Unit. “It also provides the true all weather capability and provides safety and flexibility required for the crew to undertake the roles required of a Police Marine and Underwater Search Unit.“

The vessel features a 2.2-metre wheelhouse measured from the dash to the aft bulkhead providing a spacious interior accommodating seating for six personnel and a starboard side galley and workstation. Other amenities include Webasto heating system and head facilities in the port hull. The vessel is equipped with safety equipment to meet the Police Boat Code Category B coding for 10 persons.

A Cheetah-designed built-in extendable stainless track system from the wheelhouse roof provides lifting capabilities up to 0.5 metres from the starboard side of the vessel. A 12V Lewmar winch and pulley system aids recovery of a rescue sledge along with other objects which need to be retrieved from the water.

Outside deck seating for four divers features dive bottle storage with generator storage below. Entrance to and from the water is via a removable boarding ladder located in the starboard side door with an additional access ladder at the stern.

Five Bells
Type of vessel:Patrol/dive boat
Owner:Yorkshire and the Humber Police Regional Underwater Search and Marine Unit, UK
Designer: Cheetah Marine, UK
Builder:Cheetah Marine, UK
Length to aft bulkheads:9.2 metres
Length overall (including engine pods):10.0 metres
Length overall (including moulded anchor bow sprit):10.2 metres
Beam overall:3.7 metres max
Draft (hull only):0.40 metres minimum
Gunwale height:0.70 metres
Weight:4,200 kg
Main engines:2 x Mercury Verado, each 300 hp (225 kW)
Speed:35 knots
Fuel:2 x 350 L inbuilt fuel tank system
Electronics:Simrad NSS 12″ & 16″ Evo 3 multifunction screens
Sounder:With B 744V transducer
Radio:RS 35 DSC VHF with AIS and aerials, compass, provision for police radio 
Anchor winch:1,000 W, bow
Life raft:10 pax

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