From its beginnings with coastal lookouts to today’s high-tech national network of co-ordination centres, HM Coastguard is celebrating 200 years of saving lives around the UK.

HM Coastguard was formally brought into existence in January 1822, when three services – the Revenue Cruisers, the Riding Officers and the Preventative Water Guard – were amalgamated. These had been set up primarily to prevent smuggling, but the Preventative Water Guard was increasingly also tasked with lifesaving responsibilities.

In a minute dated 15 January, 1822, the Treasury accepted the proposal for amalgamation, noting that the new force would be called ‘Coast Guard’.

To mark the anniversary, coastguards from each of the home nations cast throwlines into the seas around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at 11am on Saturday, 15 January.

Today, Coastguard operations centres co-ordinate responses to emergency situations at the coast by calling on 310 Coastguard rescue teams, made up of 3,500 dedicated volunteers, and using 10 search and rescue helicopter bases.

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 was a reflection of that commitment.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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