The National Coastwatch Institution is a voluntary, wholly self-funded charitable organisation registered with the Charity Commission and managed by a Board of Trustees. It was established in 1994 to keep a visual watch along UK shores after many HM Coastguard lookout Stations were closed and lighthouses became unmanned. There are now over 56 NCI Stations in England and Wales manned by over 2600 Watchkeepers providing “eyes along the coast”. The NCI typically assists with over 500 incidents per year
In 1994 when two fishermen lost their lives off the Cornish coast below a recently closed Coastguard lookout, local people decided to open and restore the visual watch. When the first station was opened at Bass Point on the Lizard, NCI was born.
High technology and sophisticated systems such as radar and telecommunications have vastly improved safety at sea, but there is no substitute for a watchful pair of eyes. Accidents do happen and a computer or technology cannot spot a distress flare, an overturned boat, a yacht with problems, a water sports enthusiast in difficulty, or children or adults in trouble, or possible pollution incidents. That is why our lookouts and watchkeepers are an important service provider to all those who use our coastal waters, footpaths and coastline.
NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. They are trained to deal with emergencies, offering a variety of skills and experience and full training by the NCI ensures that high standards are met.
Over 262,400 hours of organised coastal surveillance were completed in 2017 alone, all at no cost to the public. Funding is managed by a Board of Trustees with a constitution agreed by the Charity Commission and relies heavily on local support.
For more information about the NCI nationally, please visit the National Coastwatch main website.