Huge rise in number of coastguard callouts over last year

The coastguard at Felixstowe has issued a warning after a rise in callouts across the UK

The coastguard at Felixstowe has issued a warning after a rise in callouts across the UK - Credit: Archant

New data has shown a huge rise in the number of coastguard callouts to the beaches of East Anglia over lockdown.  

Figures obtained through a freedom of information request showed that the number of incidents attended by the coastguard had increased sharply.  

Data for the coastguard is separated into zones; one covers the Suffolk and east Norfolk coastline while another is north Essex.  

In particular, the north Essex coastline recorded large increases in the number of incidents each month.  

In March 2019, that area of the coast only registered 34 incidents, in 2020 this dropped to 23 but in 2021 this number was 142 — almost quadrupling in 24 months. 

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The rises in Suffolk and Norfolk were not as high but still marked; in February 2019 there were 44 callouts, while in February 2021 this was 79.

The data also showed that most callouts in Suffolk and Norfolk (282) were related to counter pollution which includes ship to ship fuel and oil transfer operations. These happen regularly off the Suffolk coast.

Coastguard. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Coastguard callouts have increased across Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex - Credit: Nick Butcher

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193 of the calls received related to false alerts that were meant with good intent and 116 to accident prevention.  

The activities that caused most callouts were sailing and walking.  

In north Essex most callouts (276) were related to helping other authorities, which includes helping onshore, followed by false alerts with good intent (153) and machinery failure (68).  

Some of the most high-profile coastguard callouts in the past year include the mass emergency service callout to the aid of struggling swimmers on Felixstowe beach in August and the apprehension of two drug runners on jet skis in Lowestoft last September.  

Scenes by Felixstowe Pier as a search operation is underway for two swimmers after getting into diff

Coastguard were called to Felixstowe last year - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman said that some of the higher numbers came from assisting emergency services, including NHS England, during the pandemic as well as supporting the shipping industry by monitoring ships.   

They said: "While we respond to each and every call we receive, with the majority of those calls and incidents occurring in coastal areas, our varied work sees the MCA and HM Coastguard attend to other incident types, which include supporting emergency service partners and the shipping industry." 

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