THE importance of the closure-threatened Forth Coastguard station at Crail - it is claimed that its axing will put lives at risk - has been underlined following a dramatic rescue effort involving an East Neuk fishing boat and its crew.
Two lifeboats - including one from Anstruther - along with other fishing craft and a warship in the area some six miles south-east of the town took part in last week’s incident after a mayday call was broadcast from the Pittenweem-based vessel.
The 24-hour maritime rescue sub-centre at Fife Ness faces closure between 2012 and 2015 under UK Government plans as part of a nationwide restructuring aimed at reducing the number of rescue co-ordination centres.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s volunteer lifeboat crews from Anstruther and Dunbar were called into action by the Crail coastguard officers after the two-man crew of the St Adrian broadcast the emergency call that it was rapidly taking on water.
As the situation worsened and water levels rose on board, the crew fired a red flare and began to prepare to abandon their vessel as personnel at Fife Ness co-ordinated the rescue effort.
First on the scene was another local fishing vessel whose crew was able to pass a pump on to the stricken vessel so the rising water level could be tackled.
The engine of the casualty vessel failed, but this appeared to have a positive effect on the ingress of water and levels began to subside, explained Alex Purves second coxswain of the Anstruther lifeboat, Kingdom of Fife.
The arrival of the lifeboats allowed for more pumps to be used to bring the water level under control, while the crew of the fishing vessel which was first to reach the St Adrian assisted its crew to recover their gear.
After the vessel was stabilised it was taken in tow by the Anstruther all-weather lifeboat back to Pittenweem harbour for examination and repair.
Mr Purves told the Citizen: ”Even modern and well-maintained vessels can develop faults and, when something like this happens and where people’s lives are at risk, there is no time to lose. It is vital that assistance can be put in place immediately.
“Shipping in the area responded to the mayday call giving the immediate assistance that was required while the lifeboat crews made their way to the scene. The potential for loss of life and livelihood has once again been averted by the co-ordinated efforts of HM Coastguard, volunteer lifeboat crews and members of the small community that work on the sea.”
Crail coastguard station covers 300 miles of coastline and has responded to around 1400 incidents in the past three years. In 2010, some 40 per cent of lifeboat launches took place within the Forth’s area of responsibility.