National Coastwatch Institution
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The National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) was founded in Cornwall in 1994 following the deaths of two local fishermen who drowned below a recently closed Coastguard Station at Bass Point. Most of HM Coastguard's visual watch stations were closed following a period of rationalization and modernization. The Institution, registered Charity number 1045645, originated from a campaign to re-establish a visual coastal watch in Cornwall. The first NCI Coastwatch station was thus established at Bass Point, on The Lizard peninsula, Cornwall by November 1994.
Following the successful launch of NCI Bass Point, other Stations quickly followed in Devon, Cornwall, East Anglia, Somerset, Sussex, Essex, Dorset, the Tyne-Tees area and South Wales. As of September 2014, there are 50 NCI Coastwatch stations operational around the coast of England and Wales, from Fleetwood in the Northwest, through Wales, along the South Coast, and up the East coast to Tyne and Wear, with over 2000 trained volunteer watchkeepers.
The Institution has a joint Memorandum of Understanding with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), HM Revenue and Customs and more recently the Home Office Border Force, and these documents are guides to NCI’s role and provide the basis for the working relationship the Institution enjoys with all these Departments. Most NCI Coastwatch Stations have acquired, or are working towards acquiring "Declared Facility Status", giving NCI a very important role to play when needed among the UK’s Search and Rescue organisations.
As of September 2014, the NCI's 2000 plus uniformed trained volunteer Watchkeepers maintain a visual watch along part of the UK coastline with 50 established NCI watch stations. These stations provide a daily visual watch in all weathers, monitoring marine radio channels, sea conditions and weather, using radar and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. All emergencies are reported to the appropriate authorities for action, the majority of NCI work being working mainly with HM Coastguard and other statutory authorities. Most NCI stations are manned on a daily basis providing a regular daily watch from 08.00 hrs to dusk. In 2007 a total of 312,350 man-hours watch was performed by NCI Watchkeepers, recording over 232,961 commercial, military and leisure vessel movements, and reporting a total of 498 incidents to HM Coastguard, Fire, Police and Ambulance services, of which 41 were NCI-initiated lifeboat rescues. All this work was carried out at no cost to the public purse.
All volunteers are provided with training in visual observation techniques, marine chart-work, Ordnance Survey mapping, critical reporting, Marine radio procedures, and radar, ensuring all volunteers reach the standards expected by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
The NCI works with HM Coastguard, the MCA, the RNLI and the other emergency services. In 2007, some of the 498 incidents reported by NCI to the MCA ended with the call-out of the RNLI lifeboats, RAF Air Sea Rescue, MoD Ordnance units, Fire, Ambulance and other rescue agencies. These incidents included vessels sinking, vessels on fire, vessels in danger and distress, swimmers, surf boarders and kite boarders in difficulties, inflatable toys with children on board being blown out to sea, persons fallen over cliffs, persons washed off jetty, land fires, dangerous munitions washed up, personal injuries, and so on.
In addition, many hundreds of minor incidents were dealt with including informing the Coastguard and Police of lost, found and missing children, distressed marine wildlife, ordnance on beaches, chemical drums, large carcasses and dangerous debris washed up.
Structure and uniform
The National Coastwatch Institution maintains 40 operational Coastwatch stations around the coastline of England and Wales, at the following locations:
- Aberystwyth, Ceredigion
- Bass Point The Lizard, Cornwall
- Boscastle, Boscastle, Cornwall
- Calshot, Hampshire
- Cape Cornwall, St Just, Penzance, Cornwall
- Charlestown, St Austell, Cornwall
- Exmouth, Devon
- Felixstowe, Suffolk
- Folkestone, Kent
- Fleetwood - Rossall Point, Lancashire
- Froward Point, Devon
- Gorleston, Great Yarmouth
- Gosport, Hampshire
- Gwennap Head, St Leven, Cornwall
- Herne Bay, Kent
- Holehaven, Canvey Island, Essex
- Jaywick, Jaywick Sands, Essex
- The Needles and Alum Bay, Isle of Wight
- Lee-On-The-Solent, Hampshire
- Lyme Bay, Dorset
- Mundesley, Norfolk
- Nare Point, The Lizard, Helston, Cornwall
- Nells Point, Barry Island, South Wales
- Newhaven, Sussex
- Pakefield, Suffolk
- Penzance, Cornwall
- Peveril Point, Swanage, Dorset
- Polruan, Cornwall
- Porthdinllaen, North Wales
- Portland Bill, Dorset (website)
- Portscatho, Pednvadan Point, Cornwall
- Prawle Point, Kingsbridge, Devon
- Rame Head, Cawsand, Devon
- St Agnes Head, St Agnes, Cornwall
- Shoreham, Sussex
- Skegness, Lincolnshire
- St Albans Head, Worth Matravers, Swanage, Dorset
- St Ives, Cornwall
- Southend, Essex
- Stepper Point, Padstow, Cornwall
- Sunderland VLB (affiliate) , Tyne & Wear
- Teignmouth, Devon
- Torbay, Devon
- Whitstable, Kent
- Worms Head, Gower Peninsula, South Wales
- Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk
- Work featured in article, Telegraph Magazine, Saturday 7 April 2007
- Charity Commission. National Coastwatch Institution, registered charity no. 1045645.
- "SEARCH AND RESCUE FRAMEWORK FOR THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND" (pdf). 5.8.5: Department for Transport. p. 54. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
All watch keepers are trained to a high standard and stations will be expected to achieve Declared Facility Status (DFS) within 18 months of opening.
- "NCI Bass Point". National Coastwatch Institution. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
- Vaughan, Sally (November 2010). "Eyes Along The Coast". Dorset Magazine. pp. 30–33. Retrieved 13 January 2011.