Lifting the lid on the National Coastwatch Institution


Pre-COVID-19 pandemic two of our team were fortunate to visit the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) look-out at Herne Bay and enjoyed a tour by two of the Watch Keepers Richard and Julia.

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Thanet CS team members John and Andy pictured with Richard Farr and Julia Morrissey

Currently there are 56 NCI operational stations and staffed by over 2500 volunteers keeping watch around the British Isles during day-light hours throughout the year. NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. The NCI provides that extra layer of maritime surveillance and monitoring of the coastline helping to keep everyone safe who enjoys using the coast.

The NCI patch covers: from Rossall Point in the North West, through to Wales, to the South and East of England to Hornsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

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Should a Watch Keeper observe a person or craft in difficulty in the water or at the coast they will notify the HM Coastguard straight away and then direct the search and rescue (SAR) assets to the casualty whether it is the Coastguard helicopter, Coastguard Rescue Team, Lifeboat or other blue light emergency service.

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Coastguard Helicoper – photo credit Dawn Kandekore

After receiving a comprehensive training package Watch Keepers (WK) are able to deal with emergencies using a variety of skills and experience.  Stations are equipped with telescopes, radar, telephone and weather instrumentation as well as up to date charts to aid Watch Keepers undertake their role effectively. Every NCI station has Declared Facility Status and has to comply with standards set by the Maritime Coastguard Agency.

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If you are out on the water you can call the National Coastwatch via channel 65 and request radio and AIS checks, local tidal conditions, local weather and other coastal information.

We would like to thank the NCI for their tireless work and for volunteering thousands of hours every year to help keep our coasts safe.

Other useful links

Know who to call in a coastal emergency?

Interested in volunteering to become a Watch Keeper?

NCI Analysis of incidents