Gosport's National Coastwatch Institution: How we keep sailors in Portsmouth Harbour safe

Today is National Coastwatch Day. Here the station manager of Gosport’s National Coastwatch Institution Chris Aps explains what its volunteers do and why their work is so important.

Saturday, 28th August 2021, 4:55 am
Deputy station manager Gail Rendle and station manager Chris Aps from Gosport's National Coastwatch Institution at Fort Blockhouse, pictured in 2019 Picture: Sarah Standing (100519-8932)

Saturday, August 28 is National Coastwatch Day. The National Coastwatch Institution is a nationwide charity dedicated to the protection and preservation of life at sea and around the UK coastline.

It now has 57 stations around the coast of England and Wales and approximately 2,700 trained volunteer watchkeepers. Importantly, it is universally recognised as the foremost provider of voluntary coastwatch services to the UK search and rescue organisations.

Your local NCI Stations are NCI Gosport and NCI Lee-on-the-Solent whose lookouts are at Fort Blockhouse (at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour), and on the busy sea front at Lee respectively.

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The view of Portsmouth Harbour from NCI's watch tower at Fort Blockhouse Picture: Sarah Standing (100519-8881)

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The eyes of the sea, watching over Portsmouth Harbour

Their combined 150 volunteers keep a visual and radio watch over a large area of the Solent, local waters, beaches and coastline. They work closely with their sister Solent NCI Stations at Calshot Tower and Stone Point at East Lepe and do this during daylight hours all year round. Gosport and Lee stations alone each donate approximately 8,500 annual watchkeeping hours to their local communities.

The NCI has grown in stature and is now a well-established part of the UK Search and Rescue apparatus. Along with other assets such as the RNLI, independent lifeboats, Coastguard Rescue Teams and Rescue helicopters, NCI watchkeepers are members of HM Coastguard.

Your local NCI stations will report any safety concerns and incidents by radio to Solent Coastguard, who also request visual information on specific incidents reported by the public or by distress calls from vessels. Search and Rescue assets will be deployed as required in response to this. The NCI website gives a wealth of information on what they do and the numerous and potentially life-threatening incidents they report.

All the volunteer watchkeepers are trained in-house to a standard approved by the Coastguard and come from all walks of life. Interested readers are welcome to apply to join the team and contribute to the safety of our Gosport, Lee and Portsmouth marine and coastal users.

As a charity, National Coastwatch Institution is entirely reliant on the goodwill of the public they serve for funds to support the running of their stations, for the equipment and expenses they need.

Should you wish to help National Coastwatch maintain its role in marine safety please text EYES to 70450 to contribute £5 to the NCI.