HM Coastguard marks 200 years of lifesaving on land and at sea

Two hundred years of saving lives along the UK coast and at sea, as well as co-ordinating rescues for those in distress in international waters, is being marked this year as HM Coastguard celebrates its milestone anniversary.

By
Mark Dowie
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 3:00pm
HM Coastguard marks 200 years of lifesaving on land and at sea

From its beginnings with coastal lookouts to today’s hi-tech national network of co-ordination centres, from small localised beginnings to international players, one thing has stayed the same for two centuries – Her Majesty’s Coastguard seeks to search, to rescue and to save.

It was on January 15, 1822, that HM Coastguard was formally brought into existence and has been working to keep people safe at the coast and sea ever since.

In honour of that actual birthday, coastguards across all four home nations are casting throwlines as a symbol of the service’s dedication – past and present.

Throwlines, which form part of the lifesaving kit used by coastguard teams, were cast into the seas around around the coast at 11am on Saturday, with each team operating under the latest Covid-19 guidance.

Over the past two centuries, HM Coastguard has gone from strength to strength. Today, coastguard operations centres co-ordinate responses to emergency situations at the coast calling on 310 Coastguard Rescue Teams – made up of 3500 dedicated volunteers – and using 10 search and rescue helicopter bases.

Innovation has always been a driver – whether it be pushing forward state-of-the-art technology in the national network of maritime rescue co-ordination centres or leading the way in rope, water and mud techniques.

In December the service began to implement its new updated search and rescue radio network which uses fibre technology. More than £175 million is being invested to upgrade the network across all 165 sites over the next two years. This will improve and future-proof its communication infrastructure and ensure that it remains able to communicate and exchange data quickly and reliably in order to co-ordinate rescues and save lives.

The service is also working to reduce its carbon footprint and is aiming to make its UK-wide fleet of vehicles electric, wherever possible, over the next five years.

Claire Hughes, director of HM Coastguard, said: “It’s easy to celebrate the innovation and development that can be seen throughout the service. And yet we are far more proud of the people, the volunteers and the staff who throughout two centuries have continued to strive to keep people safe at the coast and out at sea. We always have and always will respond to those in distress.”

Sudan Todd, divisional commander for Scotland, added: “As an emergency service HM Coastguard is always busy and it’s rare that we get the chance to reflect on how far we have come. Two hundred years of saving lives at sea and at the coast is truly something to be proud of. The symbolic casting of throwlines across the UK is a reflection of our unwavering commitment to keeping people safe at sea.”

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