To mark the day - at 11am - they cast throwlines into the sea as a symbol of the service’s dedication to saving lives. Among the coastal settings for the gesture in Northern Ireland was the Giant’s Causeway, where members of Coleraine Coastguard took part.
Coastal Operations Area Commander in Northern Ireland, Robert Steventon, said: “We all share a great sense of pride in HM Coastguard and this milestone anniversary is an opportunity for us to both reflect on what the service has achieved to date and to look to the future and what that may hold.
“What won’t change is our commitment to keeping people safe at sea which always has been, and will always be, our reason for doing what we do.”
From its beginnings with coastal lookouts to today’s hi-tech national network of coordination centres, from small localised beginnings to international players – one thing has stayed the same for two centuries – Her Majesty’s Coastguard seeks to search, to rescue and to save.
It was on January 15, 1822, that HM Coastguard was formally brought into existence and has been working to keep people safe at the coast and sea ever since.
Today, in honour of that actual birthday, coastguards across all four home nations cast throwlines as a symbol of the service’s dedication - past and present.
Throwlines, which form part of the lifesaving kit used by coastguard teams, will be cast into the seas around Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales at 11am, with each team operating under the latest Covid-19 guidance for the local areas.
Over the past two centuries, HM Coastguard has gone from strength to strength. In 2022, coastguard operations centres coordinate responses to emergency situations at the coast calling on 310 Coastguard Rescue Teams – made up of 3,500 dedicated volunteers – and using 10 search and rescue helicopter bases.
Although the way in which HM Coastguard operates has changed beyond recognition in the last two centuries, it continues to look to the future. Innovation has always been a driver – whether it be pushing forward state of the art technology in the national network of maritime rescue coordination centres or leading the way in rope, water and mud techniques.
In December HM Coastguard began to implement its new updated search and rescue radio network which uses fibre technology. More than £175million has been invested to upgrade the Coastguard’s national radio network across all 165 sites over the next two years.
The service continues to adapt to changes – in the last few years providing mutual aid and support during events and incidents to other emergency partners. During the pandemic, coastguards supported the NHS, attended the G7 and COP26 in 2021 and are called in to support during national emergencies including flooding or supplying water to stranded drivers.
Maritime Minister, Robert Courts said: “Congratulations HM Coastguard on their 200-year anniversary. I am immensely proud and humbled by the continued dedication and professionalism from the staff and volunteers which ensures everyone’s safety on our shores and around our coast.
“HM Coastguard is the backbone of our maritime sector and the nation is indebted to its incredible workforce which continues to deliver an exceptional service.”
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.”