Lifeboats facing massive bills after radio price hike

PUBLISHED: 18:10 13 October 2008 | UPDATED: 11:17 17 June 2010

SIDMOUTH lifeboat could be faced with massive bills for using their radios which could take money away from other vital resources after a move to increase maritime frequencies. Communications regulator Ofcom is reviewing the pricing structure of VHF radi

SIDMOUTH lifeboat could be faced with massive bills for using their radios which could take money away from other vital resources after a move to increase maritime frequencies.

Communications regulator Ofcom is reviewing the pricing structure of VHF radio for all maritime and search and rescue teams which could see a rise of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. The RNLI has predicted that it would cost £250,000 a year on top of the £45,000 they already pay.

Independent lifeboats could be among the worst hit if the review goes ahead and it is predicted that Sidmouth Lifeboat would have to pay up to £4,000 extra a year.

Simon Sparrow, senior coxswain, said: We do pay a lot already and this would be additional costs we wouldn't like to pay.

"We have limited funds and we might have to sacrifice something else if the costs go up dramatically. Especially with fuel costs everything seems to be going up.

Ofcom have said they would not charge for lifeboats to use the radio frequency ship-to-ship but an extra charge would be incurred between boats and shore-based lifeboat stations. The charge would also cover pagers which Portland Coastguard use to alert the lifeboat crew to urgent launches.

The consultation period, which began in July, ends on Thursday, October 30 and Ofcom are encouraging organisations to raise any issues they have during this period.

A spokeswoman for Ofcom said: This radio frequency is used by a whole host of people to communicate and the review will bring this sector into line with everyone else who uses it.

"Part of the proposal we are considering is discounts to people like the RNLI in recognition of their status which is currently 50 per cent of the costs.

"We would absolutely consider increasing their discounts if they came to us and told us that is what they wanted."

She also said it would not cost as much as what has been predicted by the RNLI and other organisations.

"At this stage we are not ruling anything in or out but it is not our business to put anyone out of business," she added.

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