Coastguard call outs at record high

COASTGUARDS at Felixstowe have dealt with a record number of incidents this summer – and have become victims of their own success.Their safety messages, publicity about their work, and pleas for help have generated more calls than for many years.

By Richard Cornwell

COASTGUARDS at Felixstowe have dealt with a record number of incidents this summer – and have become victims of their own success.

Their safety messages, publicity about their work, and pleas for help have generated more calls than for many years.

Felixstowe sector officer Joe Arlow said he and his team had been called to 100 jobs this summer compared with 61 last year.

These had ranged from rescues on the sea to calls about drugs and illegal immigrants, people missing or overdue, to routine matters needing attention.

"This was the busiest season we have had in the six years I have been here," said Mr Arlow.

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"I think a lot of it comes down to our publicity working better than before – people know what the Coastguard does and when and how to contact us and are doing so more and more.

"It's a double-edged sword really because if you are more pro-active the message will get about – but we don't mind because we are here to do a job and help the public."

At sea, the biggest problem of the summer has been the Deben bar – the shifting sandbanks at the mouth of the estuary at Felixstowe Ferry – with people every weekend getting caught out by the changes and stuck.

"It has kept us all very busy this summer because that area is potentially extremely hazardous and is changing all the time," he added.

Mr Arlow heads a team of 11 auxiliary coastguards based at the Coastguard Station in Schneider Close, Felixstowe.

The 11 – ten men and one woman – are volunteers and have other have other full-time jobs, but carry a 24-hour pager in case their services are needed.

They have all played a vital role in keeping people safe on the sea, rivers and beaches at Felixstowe this summer, along with the Ferry harbourmaster John White and his assistant Duncan Read.

The unit has a wide selection of modern equipment for all kinds of emergencies, including equipment to rescue people stuck in mud, and has benefited from improved funding from the government's Maritime Coastguards Agency.

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