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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 200th anniversary.
From its beginnings with coastal lookouts to today’s hi-tech national network of co-ordination centres, one thing has stayed the same for two centuries – Her Majesty’s Coastguard seeks to search, to rescue and to save.
HM Coastguard was formally established on January 15 1822 and has been working to keep people safe along the coast and at sea ever since.
Over the past two centuries, HM Coastguard has gone from strength to strength. Today its operations centres co-ordinate responses to emergency situations calling on 310 Coastguard Rescue Teams – made up of 3,500 dedicated volunteers – and using 10 search and rescue helicopter bases.
Although the way in which the organisation operates has changed beyond recognition in the last two centuries, HM Coastguard continues to look to the future. 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.
Last month, HM Coastguard began to implement its new updated search and rescue radio network which uses fibre technology. More than £175m has been invested to upgrade the Coastguard’s national radio network across 165 sites over the next two years. This will improve and future proof its communication infrastructure and ensure it remains able to communicate and exchange data quickly and reliably.
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 help during national emergencies including flooding or supplying water to stranded drivers.
HM Coastguard provides training to search and rescue authorities around the world and shares knowledge with others.
A key player with the International Maritime Organization, HM Coastguard’s input and insight around the obligations of The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea is sought and valued.
The service is currently working hard to reduce its carbon footprint and is aiming to make its UK-wide fleet of vehicles electric wherever possible over the next five years.
Six electric vehicles have already been bought, with 19 more currently being procured for use across the UK.
And with technology ever evolving, the service will continue to strive to be at the forefront of innovation to carry out its life-saving work.
Divisional commander for Scotland Susan Todd said: ‘As an emergency service, HM Coastguard is always busy and it’s rare we get the chance to reflect on how far we have come. 200 years of saving lives at sea and along the coast is something to be proud of.’
UK government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: ‘With 87 stations across Scotland, supported by nearly 800 volunteers, HM Coastguard plays a vital role in keeping people safe on our coastlines and at sea.
‘On behalf of the UK government and people around the UK, I’d like to pay tribute to the bravery of our coastguards and thank them for the many lives they save. Happy 200th birthday.’
A modern day Coastguard rescue team. NO_B03coast01
The joint rescue co=ordination centre at Fareham in Hampshire NO_B03coast02