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South East Cluster: Visit to Dover Coastguard
24th November 2018 @ 10:45 am - 12:15 pm
Our arrival at Dover Coastguard Operations Centre coincided with the Search and Rescue Helicopter touching down on their helipad there, so we were ushered in quickly to avoid us getting knocked down by the downdraft!
Fifteen members attended, which was the maximum they allow at any one time, and Tony Evans, the Maritime Operation Specialist, hosted our visit. We went up to the area near the training room where Tony gave us a general overview of all the Coastguard get involved in. We were unable to go inside the training room as it was full of volunteers getting instruction, then they all trooped out to board the Helicopter for another training exercise. Our next visit was to a computer room which housed all the back-up terminals for the whole of the UK in case the system went down or was hacked, these are not connected to the other servers so would be completely independent in case of a cyber attack.
We then had another talk by Tony in a conference room all about the various areas covered by the Coastguard, and explaining the recent changes. He also put up a live screen of the Dover Straits showing all the shipping, and the various traffic separation schemes around the Thames Estuary and Dover Straits. Tony’s talk was extremely interesting and quite in depth, he was happy to answer all our questions and I think we were all surprised by how varied the Coastguard’s responsibilities are.
Our last visit was to the operations room at the top of the building which overlooks Dover Harbour and across to France, but unfortunately the day was cloudy and misty, so we weren’t able to see very far. Here was an opportunity to see the technical side to operations in use – it was very calm whilst we were there, but I’m sure it gets pretty busy at times, and recent events reported in the news must add to the workload!
The two hours sped by, we thanked Tony Evans for all his time and an excellent tour, then it was off to lunch at Cullins Yard Bistro which is right next to the inner basin, Wellington Dock at Dover Marina. We enjoyed a splendid lunch there, then all departed in different directions maybe taking in a little Christmas shopping at De Bradelei Wharf before leaving. And as always, many thanks to Dave Clare for his excellent photos, especially the helicopter action shot.