HM Coastguard celebrates a landmark birthday – keeping people safe along the coast for 200 years
An important life-saving emergency service is celebrating a landmark anniversary today (Saturday, January 15).
From its beginnings with coastal lookouts to today’s hi-tech national network of coordination centres, from small localised beginnings to international players – one thing has stayed the same for two centuries – Her Majesty’s Coastguard seeks to search, to rescue and to save.
Two hundred years of saving lives along the UK coast and at sea, as well as coordinating rescues for those in distress in international waters, is being marked this year as HM Coastguard celebrates its milestone anniversary.
It was on January 15 in 1822, that HM Coastguard was formally brought into existence and has been working to keep people safe at the coast and sea ever since.
Today, in honour of that actual birthday, coastguards across all four home nations are casting throwlines as a symbol of the service’s dedication – past and present.
Throwlines, which form part of the lifesaving kit used by coastguard teams, will be cast into the seas around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at 11am, with each team operating under the latest Covid-19 guidance for the local areas.
Over the past two centuries, HM Coastguard has gone from strength to strength.
In 2022, coastguard operations centres coordinate responses to emergency situations at the coast calling on 310 Coastguard Rescue Teams – made up of 3,500 dedicated volunteers – and using 10 search and rescue helicopter bases.
Last month, HM Coastguard began to implement its new updated search and rescue radio network which uses fibre technology.
More than £175 million has been invested to upgrade the Coastguard’s national radio network across all 165 sites over the next two years.
This will improve and future-proof its communication infrastructure and ensure that it remains able to communicate and exchange data quickly and reliably in order to co-ordinate rescues and save lives.
Maritime Minister, Robert Courts said: “Congratulations HM Coastguard on their 200-year anniversary.
“I am immensely proud and humbled by the continued dedication and professionalism from the staff and volunteers which ensures everyone’s safety on our shores and around our coast.
“HM Coastguard is the backbone of our maritime sector and the nation is indebted to its incredible workforce which continues to deliver an exceptional service.”
Claire Hughes, director of HM Coastguard, said: “When you look at how we started and where we are now, it’s easy to celebrate the innovation and development that can be seen throughout the service. And yet, we are far more proud of the people, the volunteers and the staff who throughout two centuries have continued to strive to keep people safe at the coast and out at sea. We always have and always will respond to those in distress.
“While this milestone is an opportunity for us to look back with pride on what we’ve achieved, we have always looked to the future, and I’m proud that we continue to look for ways in which to improve and save lives. I’m proud of the commitment, the dedication and selfless sacrifice and I’m proud of how the service has developed and continues to do so.”
Coastal Operations Area Commander Tom Wright said: “This anniversary is a huge milestone for all of us at HM Coastguard.
“We wanted to mark the occasion in a way which is unique to us and which demonstrates our commitment to keeping people safe at sea. The symbolic casting of throwlines across the UK today is a reflection of that commitment.“