For Those In Peril On The Sea

Do you fish in the sea from boats or the rocks?  Do you snorkel or scuba-dive around the British coastline?  Do your kids play in the sea with airbeds or rubber rings?  Do you take the occasional Cross-Channel ferry?  Do you sail small yachts on the sea?

If you have answered YES to any of the above then you need Her Majesty’s Coastguard.

You may not realise that you do, but you do.  You may think that if you were unfortunate to capsize your yacht for example and need rescuing then the RNLI will come and save you.  This is true, but the lifeboat crew are called out and the rescue co-ordinated by the Coastguard.

HM Coastguard operates out of bases or Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres which are divided into three group areas:

Scotland and Northern Ireland Region

  • Aberdeen
  • Belfast
  • Clyde
  • Forth
  • Shetland
    • Sumburgh Airport
  • Stornoway
    • Stornoway Airport (Isle of Lewis)

Wales and West of England Region

  • Brixham
  • Falmouth
  • Holyhead
  • Liverpool
  • Milford Haven
  • Swansea

East of England Region

  • Dover
  • Humber (Bridlington)
  • London
  • Portland
  • Solent
    • RNAS Lee-on-Solent (HMS Daedalus) – Lee-on-Solent
  • Thames
  • Yarmouth

Until 2001 stations were also operated in Tynemouth, Oban and Pentland.

The types of emergency that HM Coastguard may be called upon to assist with are;

  • Sailboarders too exhausted to reach the shore;
  • Walkers and animals who slip from cliff paths;
  • Boats losing rudder control;
  • Crew stranded aboard a container ship battered by freak waves;
  • Medical emergencies;
  • Incidents involving oil rigs (such as fire);
  • Suicide victims that have jumped from cliffs or bridges;
  • Missing adults and children around the cliffs or beach area;
  • Broken Down Merchant Vessels in British waters;
  • Evacuating injured persons at sea;
  • Locating missing persons and vessels at sea;
  • Fires on board Merchant vessels;
  • Groundings;
  • Collisions at sea;

The length of coastline of Great Britain plus its principal islands is about 19,491 miles (31,368 km), so that’s not really very many coastguard stations to cover the whole UK coastline.

Mr Cameron and his cronies, after much public consultation allegedly,  originally planned to leave just THREE coastguard stations open in order to create a 21st Century service.  So now we know what the 21st Century looks like to the ConDem coalition.

After one of Dave’s famous U-Turns only 8 Coastguard Stations will now close

  • Brixham
  • Clyde
  • Forth
  • Great Yarmouth
  • Liverpool
  • Portland
  • Swansea
  • Thames

Leaving these open

  • Aberdeen
  • Belfast
  • Falmouth
  • Holyhead
  • Humber
  • London
  • Milford Haven
  • Shetland
  • Stornoway
  • Plus a new Maritime Operations Centre to be created in Fareham

Now surely the Coastguard service is one of those where local knowledge is a valuable assett. Local knowledge of the tides, rocks etc and even movement of boats on the water.  Many years ago a group of us used to go fishing off The Needles once a month, and one particularly day SWMBO was sitting patiently waiting for me to fill the freezer with fish.  After a while she began to worry because she hadn’t heard from me.  Mobile phones did not exist in those days.  So she picked up the phone from our house on the outskirts of London and dialled 999 and asked for the Coastguard.  This still makes me smile today, but the point is that with a bit of sensible questioning by the operator, she was put through to the Coastguard, the right Coastguard, and he was able to say to her “oh you mean the group of policemen out with Trevor?  They’ve had a good day and decided to stay out longer, but they’re on their way back now, they’ve just gone past me”.

Now that is clearly not the only reason that the Coastguard service exists, but it’s a very good example of the human side of the service, one lady suitably reassured.  This level of local knowledge will be decimated with the proposed (revised) closure programme.

My interaction with the sea these days is limited to Cross Channel Ferries and the occasional outing on my brother-in-law’s yacht, but I still retain an immense respect and admiration for the Coastguard and the work they do.

If only one life is lost due to the closure of Coastguard stations it is surely one life too many.  How can you put a price on a life Dave?

HMCG COSTS £35 million  = £1.16/taxpayer/year  CLOSURES Est. SAVING £4.6 million = 15 pence/taxpayer/year.  15 Pence per taxpayer per year.  Is it really about savings Dave?  Or are you just softening them up for the P word?

The government says the current system comprises “dispersed centres with no network of national integration” and therefore has “very limited resilience in the event of high demand or technical problems”, but apparently half the number will do a better job.

Even today the BBC are reporting that there is no credible case for closure in Scotland

Please have a look at the website for the campaign to keep the coastguard stations open and see what they have to say, and maybe even write to your MP about it.

Follow   Coastguard_SOS and @CoastalJoe1 on Twitter

A separate but somewhat different issue is the proposed Privatisation (the P word again) of HM Coastguard’s Search and Rescue Helicopter services.

All Britain’s search and rescue helicopters were due to be privatised under a scheme agreed by the previous Labour Government, but irregularities were found in the bidding process in February and the project was scrapped.  Irregularities in the bidding process, haven’t we heard that somewhere else recently?

Don’t be fooled though, Camoron and Gideon love a bit of Privatisation and given the chance they’ll come back to it, but here’s the bit I don’t get (there’s much that I don’t get about privatisation).  It costs a finite amount to keep a helicopter flying.  I’ll pluck a figure out of the hour and guestimate £3,000 per hour, all inclusive.  Surely it still costs £3,000 per hour if you privatise the operation?  Why would/could it it cost a profit-making organisation less to operate a fleet of choppers than a not-for-profit organisation?  There must be corners being cut somewhere.

The ConDem coalition would only actually commit to continuing the service until new long term arrangements are in place.  On top of this the intention is for military Sea Kings to be withdrawn from service in 2016.

No less a publication than the Bournemouth Daily Echo are today reporting that the fight to save Dorset’s helicopter service is not yet lost, maybe the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train coming after all.


3 thoughts on “For Those In Peril On The Sea

  1. CoastalJoe

    Excellent article & Thanks for the mention!
    Just a little bit of extra information and a few questions to ponder.

    When UK helicopter SAR is privatised, it will end the involvement by Royal Navy & Royal Air Force Crews in all Civil SAR. FACT as announced last year!
    However, it is understood that military crews will still be required to perform that role for military use only, certainly the RN will be required to do so because of operations away from land based assets.

    So the questions are:
    How can 2 organisations which are effectively training & carrying out the same job be a reduction in cost?
    Will a private company risk expensive aircraft in severe weather that ‘maybe’ on the edge of performance range or capabilities?
    Will the military be forced to step in at the last minute when contractors fail to meet requirements?

    Answers on a postcard to your MP or the PM or both!

  2. Pingback: The Shrinking Service aka Her Majesty’s Coastguard | The Big Picture

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