Essex and Suffolk: Coastguard faces surge in demand
COASTGUARD stations on the East coast have dealt with an exceptionally high number of call outs over the Easter weekend – and the coming bank holiday could be just as busy.
It comes at a time when regional stations – including the coastguards at Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk – are facing the axe as the government looks to cut costs.
The Thames Coastguard in Walton, which is responsible for more than 600 miles of coastline in Essex, Suffolk and Kent, has dealt with more than 100 incidents so far this month, and 37 of them were over the Easter weekend. This is a marked increase compared to April 2010 when there was a total of 81 call outs.
Richard Fearn, acting watch manager at Thames Coastguard, said: “We have experienced an unusually busy weekend and an increase compared to last year.
“It’s largely down to the good weather with more people going down to the beach and more leisure craft in the water.
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“The types of incidents we are seeing more of are boats becoming grounded and needing to be rescued and people getting into trouble on inflatables and jet skis.
“We are expecting it to be busy on the Royal Wedding bank holiday, but a lot will depend on the weather. Whatever happens we will be ready to deal with it.”
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A spokesman for Yarmouth Coastguard said there were up to 10 times as many incidents over the bank holiday weekend as they would usually expect.
Between Friday and Monday, the Yarmouth Coastguard, which covers Norfolk and Suffolk, dealt with 41 incidents. That compares with just one incident dealt with between 8am and 4pm on Tuesday.
The spokesman said: “It has been very busy. The numbers of incidents we get depends on the weather and time of year. In summer time that number can be considerable – say 20-plus a day. At other times it can be two or three calls – it is very difficult to predict. This weekend we have had summer levels.”
The rise in call outs has coincided with the start of a House of Commons Transport Committee which is looking at government plans to cut back on coastguard centres.
Leaders from the Public and Commercial Services Union, the RMT transport union, the Prospect union and the ships’ masters’ union Nautilus gave evidence to the committee yesterday.
When the coastguard plans were announced last year, Karen Paradise, branch secretary for the Public and Commercial Services Union at Thames Coastguard, said the loss of local knowledge from the closures would “potentially risk lives”.
Under new plans, the regional bases will be replaced by three 24-hour stations at Aberdeen, Dover and the Southampton/Portsmouth area.
Five sub-centres will be open during daylight hours in Swansea, Falmouth, Humber, either Belfast or Liverpool, and either Stornoway or Shetland.