Coast patrol sinks
A VOLUNTEER patrol service which has helped more than 700 people is today facing an uncertain future - and may have carried out its last rescue.The crew operate from Felixstowe beach and are a vital part of the resort's rescue network, but have huge financial problems following a series of big expenses.
A VOLUNTEER patrol service which has helped more than 700 people is today facing an uncertain future - and may have carried out its last rescue.
The crew operate from Felixstowe beach and are a vital part of the resort's rescue network, but have huge financial problems following a series of big expenses.
Now the service - which has never had a major sponsor - cannot even afford to pay its legal licences, insurance or mooring fees.
John Cresswell, chairman of the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue Service, said: “It makes me quite sad to have to announce that 2005 may have been our last year of service.
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“But I have run out of steam after eight years of going cap in hand every single year to try and raise the money to keep the service going - it wears a bit thin and becomes embarrassing to keep going back to the same people.
“Everyone says you cannot let the service go and I am certainly reluctant to do that.
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“But without a major sponsor or big backer there is no way we can carry on - we just cannot afford to.
“People say, what will happen when you are not there on the beach? I know that there are people who would have died if we had not been there to save them - and I am proud of what the service, especially the volunteers, have achieved over the years.
“But it makes me very sad that everything has to come down to money. Our service costs around £10,000 a year to run - and that is good value and in fact cheap compared to the cost of a professional paid service. You cannot price a life.
“There cannot be many services like ours where volunteers pay for all their personal equipment and mandatory formal training qualifications, yet the service they freely provide struggles to survive.”
There has been a shortage of volunteers this year with less than ten at the moment, but at least four others are set to join this winter if the service continues.
A spokeswoman for Thames Coastguard - which regularly tasks the volunteer unit to attend incidents at sea - said she could not comment on the rescue service's plight as it had not yet formally told the authority its intentions.
But she said Felixstowe would still be covered by the Harwich and Aldeburgh RNLI inshore and all-weather lifeboats and RAF Wattisham search and rescue 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Other vessels could also be called into action near an incident, depending on their type, crew and equipment and their suitability to the situation.