Sealand owners won't foot rescue bill

PEACE has today broken out between two neighbouring sovereign powers.For Britain's emergency services have decided not to charge the rulers of independent country Sealand - an ageing fort off Felixstowe - the thousands of pounds it cost to deal with a devastating fire on the mini-state.

PEACE has today broken out between two neighbouring sovereign powers.

For Britain's emergency services have decided not to charge the rulers of independent country Sealand - an ageing fort off Felixstowe - the thousands of pounds it cost to deal with a devastating fire on the mini-state.

Bosses at the Royal Air Force and Coastguard revealed the Royal family of Sealand will not be sent the bill - and they have said they will always offer help for free if there are lives at risk off the coast.

Fire caused more than £500,000 damage to the world's smallest nation, which is situated on the former war-time fort Roughs Tower, seven miles off Felixstowe, after a blaze in a generator.

The fire in June sparked a major alert. One person had to be airlifted to safety and taken to hospital, while a tug spent hours at the scene spraying jets of water on to the structure.

Following a request under the Freedom of Information Act, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the cost of sending a team of Suffolk-based firefighters to the blaze was about £1,500.

Most Read

The RAF said the full cost of the use of a Wattisham search and rescue helicopter in connection with the rescue of the man and taking out the fire crew was £521.

There were also further, unspecified costs associated with the RNLI response to the incident, deployment of the tug and other vessels which helped out.

Gail Robertson, of the MCA's counter pollution and response unit, said: “The owners of the Roughs Tower have not been sent a bill for the cost of the firefighters to this incident and it is not the intention of the MCA to do so.

“The tug did not charge the MCA for its services. However, had it done so, the MCA would seek reimbursement of costs from the owners of Roughs Tower.

“It is not general practice for the MCA to attempt recovery of costs following a search and rescue (saving of life) incident.”

Ian Mathias, of the MoD, said under international conventions, the British government accepted responsibility for search and rescue help to people and ships regardless of nationality or status.

He said: “Services are provided free of charge as long as there is an essential need to save and preserve life. In this case the mission was deemed essential to save and preserve life.”

Sealand was declared a sovereign state in 1967 by wealthy businessman and former 8th Army Royal Fusiliers major Roy Bates, now 82, and his wife Joan, a former beauty queen. It has its own currency, flag, stamps, national anthem, constitution and laws.

Prince Regent Michael Bates of Sealand, who has thanked the British RAF, Coastguard, RNLI and Harwich Haven Authority for sending firefighting and rescue services, said: “I think it is a nice example of entente cordiale, one country helping another. We have helped the Coastguard many times in the past through our look-outs.”

WEBLINK: www.sealandgov.org; www.mod.uk; www.mcga.gov.uk

Opinion - page 4

WORK on the repairs to Sealand are progressing well but it will take another three months to complete the task.

Prince Regent Michael Bates said the damage had been horrendous but the country was able to operate normally while refurbishment took place.

He said: “The main problems were the smoke damage because it was sooty everywhere, but also mopping up the water as there was such a lot pumped in to put out the fire.

“It's a big job but we have been at it pretty much constantly since the fire, though we have had breaks to wait for bits and pieces we have needed.

“We are more than half-way there now and should be finished in about three months.”

The fire damaged about a third of the main administrative and communal facilities and destroyed the main power generation facility, though back-up generators were unaffected.

Rulers of Sealand have placed a one-mile exclusion zone around the 932 sq yd principality, which is also home to an internet server company, while the work takes place.

The Sealand Disaster Fund had brought in some money to help with repairs.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter