VHF Radio cover

The following statement was read out by Tony Hill, of Seafari Adventures, at the community council meeting last night. Please be aware of it’s contents, particularly as there is no mobile signal here on Seil. The skiff does, of course, always carry a VHF radio.

>>>>>> Statement VHF Radio
Many will be aware that despite the request by Seafari to keep our petrol tank application focussed on planning issues the objectors reported Seafari to numerous council departments and government agencies. One of those government agencies was Ofcom, the regulator for radio communications which includes marine radio use. An inspector visited us in Easdale.

The enforcement officer acknowledged that by listening in to Channel 16 the Seafari Ticket Office and Seafari accommodation houses had alerted and summoned staff to man boats in order to assist others at sea. This occurred on 5 separate occasions in the past 2 seasons. The most poignant local case being that of Scott MacAlister. Our office summoned Steve Patterson and our crew from their respective houses, a boat was launched and despite being given incorrect directions by Stornoway Coastguard it arrived first on scene approximately 20 minutes ahead of Oban lifeboat.

The enforcement officer acknowledged that many remote communities have similar arrangements offering increased unofficial safety cover. As Seafari had been reported to Ofcom, national protocols are to be followed. Neither location nor support to the local community can be considered.

At a financial cost equivalent to just 6 passengers, Seafari now operates its radios on a private marine VHF channel. All communications are exclusive to Seafari. We seek support from Seil Community Council to inform the local boating community that the Seafari bases will no longer be listening in to either Channel 16 or Channel 77. Channel 16 can be used to alert others in the area to boats experiencing difficulties, Channel 77 was used particularly by local leisure craft who left details of their intended day or to inform, or update, those ashore. Channel 77 also provided general communication cover for activities such as Seil Coastal Rowing and local sea kayak operators.

Seafari vessels will continue to listen to Channel 16 when at sea but our vessels spend the majority of their time away from Easdale, a recognised difficult corner on any sea passage. Our ticket office will no longer react to local incidents as it will be unaware of radio traffic. Seafari has in the past (4 occasions in 2 years) quietly assisted Stornoway Coastguard preventing the launch of Oban Lifeboat.

Tourism is the lifeblood of Seil and Easdale. Our local sea is the area’s greatest asset. The safety of both locals and visitors whilst at sea is important to us. Oban lifeboat is the recognised assistance at a response time of approximately 30 minutes. Seafari accepts the actions of the objectors were correct to the letter of the law. The outcome has not affected Seafari operational procedures but Seafari management and skippers wish to make known that, in their opinion, the action taken by the objectors were not in the best interests of the local community.

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