Portsmouth Harbour too busy to close coastguard base claim campaigners

BUSY Yachts about to enter Portsmouth Harbour
BUSY Yachts about to enter Portsmouth Harbour

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PEOPLE fighting for a coastguard base to be kept locally have seized on figures showing 50 boats an hour pass through Portsmouth Harbour entrance,

Members of the National Coastwatch Institution spent two weeks counting the number of boats that passed in and out of the harbour entrance.

Figures showed an average of more than 50 movements every hour and a total of 6,047 private leisure boats were seen over the two weeks.

On one Sunday, almost 1,300 boats used the harbour entrance in one 10-hour period.

Gosport’s Councillor Peter Edgar, who is the chairman of the Solent Sea Rescue Organisation, said the figures add weight to calls for a new coastguard centre to be based in the area.

He said: ‘We have already got overwhelming evidence the coastguard should be kept here and this is a piece of evidence we didn’t have before.

‘I would like to congratulate the coastwatch volunteers on this because they have done a job nobody else has.

‘We know it’s absolutely vital that we have people on hand 24 hours a day, 365 days a week to come to the help of these vessels.’

Under government proposals, the coastguard base in Lee-on-the-Solent will close to make way for a new state-of-the-art centre in either Portsmouth or Southampton.

There have been numerous calls for the station to be built on the former HMS Daedalus site.

The NCI’s volunteers will carry out another survey later this year to compare the results.

David Russell, from the coastwatch station, said: ‘Counting sheep is a very good way to encourage rest and relaxation but counting boats turned out to be slightly less therapeutic.

‘It is relatively straightforward for the port authority to collate and record the movements of large ships such as cross-channel ferries, warships and commercial cargo vessels.

‘It is much more difficult to keep track of the huge numbers of private boats that pass in and out of the harbour every day.’

The survey was carried out daily between 10am and 8pm from the NCI station in Gosport earlier this year.