HM Coastguard coastal operations area commander Tom Wright on Southbourne beach in Dorset (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Coastguards around the country are marking the 200th anniversary of the service dedicated to saving lives at sea.
Established on January 15 1822 originally to combat smuggling, Her Majesty’s Coastguard has in the following 200 years expanded to its current form, which involves 3,500 volunteers in 310 teams across the UK, which are supported by 10 search and rescue helicopters.
To mark the milestone, 200 throwlines – part of the standard lifesaving kit – will be cast by coastguards around the country as a symbol of the service’s dedication.
We always have and always will respond to those in distress
Tom Wright, area commander for South West England told the PA news agency: “We have changed inconceivably from when we were first brought into place and in my time we have changed massively.
“We have got a lot safer and our rescue capability (has improved) and we are into technical rescue now.
“We rely a lot more on technology as far as our communications are concerned, and the new technologies, as far as drones to assist in search and rescue and other unmanned vehicles (go), will be key moving forward.”
Adding that volunteers and staff remain the most important element of the Coastguard, Mr Wright said: “We couldn’t do what we do without the volunteers who give up their time 24/7 365 days a year. Without that workforce we wouldn’t be able to undertake the search and rescue that we do.”
Maritime minister Robert Courts said: “Congratulations HM Coastguard on their 200-year anniversary. I am immensely proud and humbled by the continued dedication and professionalism from the staff and volunteers which ensures everyone’s safety on our shores and around our coast.
“HM Coastguard is the backbone of our maritime sector and the nation is indebted to its incredible workforce which continues to deliver an exceptional service.”
Claire Hughes, Coastguard director, said: “When you look at how we started and where we are now, 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.
“While this milestone is an opportunity for us to look back with pride on what we’ve achieved, we have always looked to the future, and I’m proud that we continue to look for ways in which to improve and save lives.
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“I’m proud of the commitment, the dedication and selfless sacrifice, and I’m proud of how the service has developed and continues to do so.”
A Coastguard spokeswoman said innovation continues within the service, including a £175 million upgrade to its national radio network and the introduction of electric vehicles to reduce its carbon footprint.
She said: “With technology ever evolving, the service will continue to strive to be at the forefront of innovation to carry out its life-saving work.
“The service continues to adapt to changes – in the last few years providing mutual aid and support during events and incidents to other emergency partners.
“During the pandemic, coastguards supported the NHS attended the G7 and COP26 in 2021, and are called in to support during national emergencies including flooding or supplying water to stranded drivers.”