Volunteers fear for service future

VOLUNTEER rescuers who patrol the sea and shore at Felixstowe say cash problems may force them to end their service at the height of the summer season.

VOLUNTEER rescuers who patrol the sea and shore at Felixstowe say cash problems may force them to end their service at the height of the summer season.

Rocketing fuel prices this year and some maintenance costs have meant the service has had to spend far more than anticipated.

It had hoped originally to get through this summer without difficulty and then launch a fresh fundraising appeal in the autumn.

But now the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue Service says the service - the only private maritime rescue service in the county - is in real problems.

“The service is in financial difficulties and without consistent funding it is likely to cease running by the end of August this year,” said rescue boat team member Neil Sharman.

“It costs between £18,000 and £20,000 to run the service each year, including £200 on fuel each weekend.

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“We receive a donation of £3,000 from the local council and the £15,000 to £17,000 shortfall is made up from donations from the public.”

Last summer the service provided 47 days of cover over weekends and Bank Holidays.

The crew of the Volunteer boat responded to 51 incidents, rescuing 71 people, often tasked by Thames Coastguard to deal with emergencies.

Meanwhile, the team at Harwich RNLI lifeboat station has stressed Felixstowe does have rescue cover 24/7 all year round thanks to its crews.

“Harwich RNLI lifeboat station covers not only Harwich but also Felixstowe and has done so for many years,” said a spokeswoman.

“The station has a 17 metre Severn class and an Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboat. The two lifeboats cover an area from Walton-on-the-Naze to Aldeburgh, including rivers such as the Deben, Ore and Walton-back-waters.

“They also go out to 100 nautical miles offshore. In the past the station has even been sent to Belgium and Holland.”

Should councils give more of taxpayers' money to keep the Felixstowe rescue service going? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk