In recent media speculation over the possibility and consequences of strike action by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), there have been several instances where the respective roles of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and HM Coastguard have been confused by the media.
This is particularly damaging to the reputation of the RNLI, a charity, whose annual national fund raising day – SOS Day, takes place on Friday 25 January.
Fundraising and Communications Director, David Brann, is concerned that the success of next Friday’s national SOS Day could be at risk:
‘Our volunteers have spent months preparing for this event but if the public think we are part of the Coastguard and part of any strike action they will not support our fundraising. That’s why it is so important to us that our position is made clear and the selfless life-saving actions of our lifeboat volunteers, such as in saving eight crew from the sinking Ice Prince earlier this week, are accurately reported.’
Michael Vlasto, RNLI Operations Director explains how any strike involving HM Coastguard employees at Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC) could affect lifeboats launching:
‘HM Coastguard has a statutory responsibility for initiating and coordinating search and rescue around the coastline of the UK. Anything that causes a break in the communications chain between those requiring assistance, HM Coastguard and the resources – in our case RNLI lifeboats – could potentially put lives at risk. They have advised us that they are developing contingency plans to ensure that this vital communications chain to our crews will be safeguarded.’
The RNLI is a charity dedicated to saving lives at sea. It operates 233 lifeboat stations and launches its 336 lifeboats in response to requests for assistance in maritime search and rescue (SAR) operations from both HM Coastguard in the UK and the Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland.
In the UK requests for RNLI lifeboats to launch are initiated through HM Coastguard-operated MRCCs. 93 per cent of all maritime rescues around the shores of the UK by rescue craft are by RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews.
RNLI website - http://www.rnli.org.uk/