The National Coastwatch Institution

The National Coastwatch Institution

17 Dean Street, Liskeard, PL14 4AB
Tel: (0300) 111 1202

Keeping a look-out for us all


The National Coastwatch Institution is a voluntary organisation and registered charity, providing a visual watch along the UK's coasts, and is not to be confused with HM Coastguard.

The National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) was founded in Cornwall in 1994 following the deaths of two local fishermen whose boat sank within sight of a then recently closed coastguard station at Bass Point. Most of HM Coastguard's visual watch stations were closed following a period of rationalisation and modernisation. Although never fully admitted or responsibility accepted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency or HM Government, it was speculated within the local community that were the watch keepers' station still staffed then the fishermen in distress would have been spotted and assistance sent. Therefore the institution became established from a campaign to re-establish a visual coastal watch in Cornwall. The first NCI Coastwatch station was thus established at Bass Point, on The Lizard Peninsula, by November 1994.

Following the successful launch of NCI Bass Point, other stations quickly followed in Devon, Cornwall, East Anglia, Somerset, Sussex, Essex, Dorset, and South Wales. As of December 2023, there are sixty NCI stations operational around the coast of England and Wales, from Fleetwood in the Northwest, through Wales, along the south coast, and up the east coast to Filey, North Yorkshire with over 2,740 trained volunteer watch-keepers. There are twelve stations along the coasts of Cornwall.

As of December 2023, the NCI's 2,740-plus uniformed trained volunteer watch-keepers maintain a visual watch along part of the UK coastline with sixty established NCI watch stations. These stations provide a daily visual watch in all weathers, monitoring marine radio channels, sea conditions and weather, using radar and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. All emergencies are reported to the appropriate authorities for action, the majority of NCI work being working mainly with HM Coastguard and other statutory authorities. Most NCI stations are staffed on a daily basis providing a regular daily watch from 8:00 am to dusk.

Many hundreds of minor incidents were dealt with including informing the coastguard and police of lost, found and missing children, distressed marine wildlife, ordnance on beaches, chemical drums, large carcasses and dangerous debris washed up.

Coastwatch Stations

Location Phone Number Web Address
Boscastle (01840) 250965
Stepper Point, near Padstow (01841) 705008
St. Agnes Head (01872) 552073
Cape Cornwall, near Lands End (01736) 787890
Gwennap Head, near Lands End (01736) 871351
Penzance (01736) 356063
Bass Point, Lizard Peninsula (01326) 290212
Nare Point, Helford (01326) 231113
Porthscatho (01872) 580180
Charlestown (01726) 817068
Polruan (01726) 870291
Rame Head (01752) 823706

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