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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Walney Coastguard team can search but not rescue

A FURNESS coastguard team stood down last year pending an internal investigation is back on duty – but is still not permitted to carry out rescues.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed last month that Walney Coastguard, which has 14 volunteers, was taken offline around December 20 for “operational reasons”.

A team from MCA headquarters was due to visit the Liverpool Coastguard base and Walney in January as part of the investigation.

A spokeswoman for the MCA said the team was now back online, but the review is still ongoing and the team is permitted to carry out search duties only.

It means they are not permitted to engage in the physical process of a rescue operation.

The neighbouring Arnside and Millom coastguard teams, tasked last year with covering the patch, are still doing so. The MCA spokeswoman said: “Cover is still being provided by flank teams, including Arnside and Millom.

“When their assistance is needed, they will be paged by the team at Liverpool Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre and those available will respond and attend.

“In most cases, Coastguard Rescue Teams are called out on searches at the request of other authorities – often police – in the search for missing or vulnerable people.

“As it stands at the moment in the Walney area, if there was a call to attend a rescue, for example if someone was stuck in mud, the flank teams would be requested to attend.”

Walney coastguard was among the agencies - chiefly Ulverston Inshore Rescue - called on Sunday when a plane had reportedly crashed off the Furness coast.

The teams were stood down when it was confirmed the sighting was in fact a microlight on a training mission.

When asked whether sufficient provision was being provided, the MCA spokeswoman said the agency was unable to comment.

John Whitford, station officer at Millom Coastguard, said his team had provided cover on three occasions.

He said: “Obviously, there was a delay in us getting down there, but we’ve got communications by phone and radio and travel down and take over when we get there.

“But it’s been going okay and they are back online now with a limited capacity.”

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