Huge section of plastic pontoon debris recovered from the sea.

Lifeboats News Release

The St.Agnes RNLI Lifeboat was launched yesterday to investigate a large object floating in the sea, approximately half a mile off the coast from St.Agnes Head, which turned out to be a huge section of a plastic pontoon.

8ft x 4ft section of a floating pontoon

RNLI/Trev Garland

8ft x 4ft section of a floating pontoon 1

We are often hearing on the news and in the media about the amount of plastic in our oceans and washing up on our beaches.

The Coastguard were called by a member of the public, who had spotted something very large, floating in the sea yesterday. The MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) at Falmouth, requested the launch of the St.Agnes RNLI Lifeboat to attend and investigate.

The crew were paged at 3.30pm on Thursday 21st March, as the tide as coming in, towards a high spring tide. The Crew of Gavin Forehead, Helm, Trev Garland and Paul Fisher, Crew, proceeded to investigate.

When they reached the object, they were amazed to find a whole large section of a floating pontoon, measuring approximately 8 foot by 4 foot. It was full of dense grade polystyrene, encased in thick black plastic. The object was black and initially difficult to see, but when they approached it, and realised what it was, they couldn’t believe their eyes.There are no such pontoons located at any of the nearby beaches or harbours, and especially rare that one should be at sea in the Winter, as these type of temporary pontoons are normally only put together in the Summer months, for leisure activities.

The pontoon section was taken back to Trevaunance Cove by the RNLI Lifeboat, for it to be removed and recycled, or put to a new use.

The Lifeboat was rehoused and ready for service at 5.30pm.

This incident goes to show that even the RNLI are inadvertently becoming involved in the removal of plastics from the ocean, all be it on this occasion the activation of the lifeboat was to check that the object was not associated to someone in distress at sea.


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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,200 lives.

8ft x 4ft section of a floating pontoon

RNLI/Paul Fisher

8ft x 4ft section of a floating pontoon 2

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or or by email.