Jersey Coastguard issues warning of sea dangers after a busy year

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JERSEY Coastguard have warned of the dangers of being cut off by rising tides and issued fresh advice to boat owners, after the organisation recorded its busiest year for call-outs since 2016.

They advised boat owners and those who borrow boats from friends and relatives to check their equipment carefully before heading out to sea, with the organisation’s 2022 annual report showing an increase in search-and-rescues on the previous year.

And they have also warned of the dangers for those venturing out on foot at low tide, ahead of what is likely to be this year’s biggest spring tide next week, at nearly 12 metres.

Mechanical failures at sea and people cut off by the rising tide accounted for 69 of the 206 search-and-rescue incidents last year, an increase of 14 on the total figure for 2021. It made the year the busiest for the Coastguard since digital recording of incidents was introduced seven years ago.

A spokesperson said: ‘Every year, the lead occurrence is equipment failure. We advise boat owners or people who have commandeered boats from others to check carefully before they head out, especially when the weather is like it is at the moment and there can be issues with old fuel or other mechanical failures.’

Jersey Coastguard noted a rise in the number of people being cut off by the tide – both tourists and residents – from 15 the previous year.

The 2021 figure followed a social-media campaign and the spokesperson confirmed that new campaigns and signage would be rolled out before this year’s summer season to try to enhance public safety around the coastline.

‘It is likely, if the present weather continues, that people might venture out and the outcome for those who end up in the water at this time of year is not good,’ they said, adding that the vast majority of casualties had no intention of going into the sea.

Commenting on the 2022 annual report, coastguard and vessel traffic service manager Dan Downey attributed the increase in incidents last year to the warm summer weather, which saw both Islanders and visitors encouraged to take to the sea and to beaches.

‘Last year also saw several large-scale search-and-rescue incidents during which we worked closely with UK and French coastguards, strengthening our relationships and sharing expertise and resources,’ said Mr Downey.

‘The safe recovery of two people on board a light aircraft which ditched into the sea in November was made possible by our local search-and-rescue community, as well as the working partnerships with neighbouring maritime rescue co-ordination centres.’

Jersey is a member of the Anglo-French accidents technical group (AFATG), co-operates with the MANCHEPLAN, an Anglo-French maritime contingency plan for the English Channel, and is also a member of the UK Search and Rescue Committee.

Jersey Coastguard say these memberships enhance the Island’s close working relationship with colleagues in Guernsey, France and the UK, and enable participants to improve response procedures and learn about the latest technological advances in SAR equipment.

They added that the relationships also enabled Jersey to call on additional air and sea search capability, including lifeboats, planes, helicopters and offshore support vessels such as MV Freja and Deep Cygnus, both of which were deployed during the major incident in December involving L’Ecume II, which sank after colliding with Commodore Goodwill.

Jersey Coastguard are advising all those who go out to sea to log with them a traffic report so that their passage information, numbers on board and their expected time of arrival or return to Jersey are known. Such information can be useful if a mariner experiences difficulties at sea, they said.

In 2022 there were 17,264 traffic reports lodged with the Coastguard, many logged using the Trace app, which was created by one of the team in 2020. It is hoped that use of the app, which reduces VHF radio traffic to allow greater focus on monitoring territorial waters, will continue to grow this year.

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