A new purpose-built Coastguard station has opened in Macduff to replace facilities that were originally designed for horses and carts.
Rescuers had been using the old bases on the Aberdeenshire coast since the 19th Century.
However, ageing facilities in Banff and Gardenstown were becoming increasingly cramped for the needs of modern day search and rescue operations.
So, Coastguard teams from the two communities have now become one operation in Macduff in the new building.
Previous Coastguard stations ‘designed for different time’
Senior coastal operations officer Calum Christie explained the upgrade was necessary to ensure crews were best-equipped to respond to emergencies.
He said: “The bases in Banff and Gardenstown were just designed for a different time, they were effectively just for a cart or trailer to be towed out or just for storing equipment.
“The one in Banff is on Battery Green, which used to be an armament essentially for coastal defence.
“We’re a much more modern-day service now and the buildings weren’t really fit-for-purpose.
“We had to look to modernise our estate to ensure we are best-prepared to continue to save lives.
Callouts for Coastguard rise in pandemic
Coastguard times up and down the north and north-east coastline have been put under increasing pressure during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lockdown restrictions have led to a rise in staycations while people stay closer to home for holidays and to get their thrills.
The result has been Coastguard crews responding to more than 400 incidents across the UK in a single weekend in summer last year amid reports of an increase of more than 50% from 2019.
Mr Christie explained the extra space in the new Macduff Coastguard station would help the 17-strong crew to continue to save lives.
He said: “I’ve been doing the job for six years and last year is the busiest we have had.
“What we found was that, especially after lockdown restrictions eased, people quite rightly started going out and enjoying our beautiful coastline because it’s on our doorstep.
“Unfortunately, with the more people going out and using the coast, the more callouts we are going to get.
“It has not been without its challenges for us. Due to the close nature of what we do it unfortunately meant the restrictions impacted on our ability to train.
“From the autumn we were able to get back to normality again but in the last few months it has been quite a struggle.
“Some training we are able to do for essential purposes – but it’s been restricted to just doing what we’re required to do.”
New Macduff station to help crews save lives
Some of the most common operations done from the new Macduff Coastguard station are likely to be rope rescues to help people at the foot of steep cliffs in the area or searches for missing persons.
However, the personnel also have a water rescue vehicle at their disposal to allow them to enter the water themselves to bring people to safety.
And teams were also deployed in Keith and Huntly during February to help residents affected by a gas outage.
Mr Christie explained the extra space in the purpose-built unit in Macduff’s Tarlair industrial estate would ensure crews have the best preparation.
He said: “Just having the extra space means we are able to hang up equipment to dry without worrying about it – previously it was just a case of making do.
“The limited space also meant we were very constrained in providing indoor training. We now have a dedicated space for that.”