Q. How many full time HM Coastguards are there in Swanage?
A. None. We are all volunteers. Two team members are on Immediate Response (The IRT- Team) while the other 10 are there as a Back-Up Response Team – (BURT). Under HM Coastguard rules we are not officially allowed to work to a rota, so we work to an ‘agreement’ amongst the team, this produced monthly.
Q. Where is the Swanage Coastguard Station?
A. It is at North Beach Car Park, Swanage.
Q. Are rescues co-ordinated from the Swanage Station?
A. Sort of. The Operations Room is in Weymouth known as a Maritime Rescue Co-ordiantion Centre (MRCC), as you may have heard in the press sadly this is due to close in about 5 years time and will be replaced by a central Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) based in Fareham. The Coastguard Rescue Team will remain in Swanage. When the MRCC task us we meet at the station and formulate a rescue plan before prosecuting the rescue.
Q. Do you operate the Lookout at Peveril Point?
A. No, but many people think we do! The lookout at Peveril Point is manned by the volunteers of the National Coastwatch Institution; (NCI) a fine group of hard working people who give up their time for the community. They rely on voluntary contributions and are wholly separate from HM Coastguard. We often pop in to see them when out on Patrol.
Q. Do you keep your boat down at the Lifeboat Station?
A. Well we don’t have a boat, the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) are a separate charitable body that are requested by the HM Coastguard Operations Room to respond. We work in close contact with Swanage Lifeboat them and will continue to do so. The main difference between us and them is that we make better tea and eat more biscuits, – I hope I haven’t started a tea war now!
Q. How much do you get paid?
A. Well we receive a small amount for our time, it’s basically the national minimum wage, so £5.73 an hour. This covers training and kit maintenance and of course rescues; extra hours such as Carnival week are unpaid. No one on the team does it for the money! Last month I took home just under £35.
Q. So there are three separate organisations in the town that keep people on the coast and at sea safe?
A. Yes, HM Coastguard (Swanage Coastguard) provide a Search and Rescue capability with Coastguard Rescue Officers and Helicopters who work from the land. The RNLI (Swanage Lifeboat) who provide the rescue capability at sea, and the National Coastwatch Institution (Swanage) who oversee the bay from Peveril Point Lookout.