By Mike Batcheler
VOLUNTEER watchkeepers will soon be keeping a sharp lookout across the UK’s coasts, thanks to the success of a pioneering trial between HM Coastguard and the National Coastwatch (NCI).
NCI volunteers spent six months manning the lookout and sharing facilities with the Bembridge Coastguard Rescue Team at Beachfield Road, Bembridge.
The trial was the first of its kind in the UK and was carried out to test the feasibility of working more closely with the NCI to enhance monitoring of coastlines, particularly in the busy summer months. The concept was developed as part of the constant assessment of search and rescue services.
Teams are now assessing other HM Coastguard stations with currently unused lookout facilities, to identify suitable locations for further local partnerships across the UK.
The trial ran during weekends and bank holidays from the beginning of April until the end of September 2022.
Following an assessment meeting last month, both HM Coastguard and NCI stakeholders agreed that the trial had been a success and NCI volunteers could ‘add value to the search and rescue family’.
Chris Enright, Divisional Commander for HM Coastguard said: “Although separate organisations, HM Coastguard and National Coastwatch share a common goal – that of ensuring the safety of people at sea and at the coast – and exploring how we can work together more closely seemed a great idea in principle.
“I’m delighted that the trial was a success, and our shared view is that this could be rolled out to other suitable locations across the UK.
“We’re now working with the NCI to identify other sites where this set-up would work well and where we can add value to the search and rescue family.”
Chris Aps, NCI Station Development Trustee, said: “I am very pleased that our trained NCI Watchkeepers will soon be able to man other Coastguard station lookouts where there are operational coastguard rescue teams.
“We have long felt that we could do more as an organisation to help in safety at the coast. Fulfilling a role like this can only boost search and rescue responses.
“The NCI is thrilled by the promise this initiative brings and really looks forward working more closely with HM Coastguard.”