Rescue service forced to stay on dry land because of running costs crisis

John Cresswell with The Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue boat at Levington Marina, which is

John Cresswell with The Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue boat at Levington Marina, which is grounded due to lack of funding. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

A rescue service which last summer saved nine lives has been forced off the sea because it cannot afford its running costs.

Ironically, Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue Service has cash in the bank – but it is ring-fenced from funders for equipment and cannot be used for day-to-day expenses, such as the fuel needed to patrol and carry out rescues.

The cash crisis meant the lifeboat Volunteer was not on the water for Easter and the group is now hoping fresh funding can be found.

John Cresswell, operations manager and 1st coxswain, said: “It is with deep regret that patrols for the 2018 season are suspended until further notice owing to a shortage of fuel funding.

“All mandatory insurances, legislation, MCA certification are in place and our volunteers have recently re-validated their sea survival courses.

“Unfortunately, the remaining funds that we have from grants are strictly ring-fenced by their donors for equipment and cannot be used for running costs, which for 2017 were £7,169 for both the boat and launch vehicle fuel.

“We were in a similar position in 2015 when only by chance we were afloat as ‘crash boat’ solely to cover the carnival air display when we were tasked by coastguard to save the lives of two young people in the water and caught by the undertow. The public then launched an appeal which raised some £6,000 enabling the service to carry on through the season.”

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Mr Cresswell said funding shortages always followed a particularly busy season – in 2017 the service handled 92 incidents of which 37 were life threatening, resulting in a total of 187 persons and four dogs being assisted and with a new record of nine lives being saved.

The lifeboat covered 3,800 miles on routine patrols and rescues. including flood alert duties; volunteers gave 1,362 hours to the community and were awarded the Suffolk Search and Rescue Award 2017.

Mr Cresswell said: “Regrettably this is the first time in our 22-year history we have not been afloat to cover the Easter period, or to give our crews their usual shake-down patrols.”

The group is currently in talks with the Coastguard which has asked the service to upgrade its status ready for the introduction of our new larger lifeboat to be commissioned later this year.

Anyone able to help the group can contact John Cresswell on 01394 270929.

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