Chinese Lanterns Mistaken for Ships in Distress

Genuine distress flares might get ignored, unreported, and not investigated

The MCA the Government Agency that in addition to looking after the regulations for the building of super yachts is responsible for the British Coastguards, is urging the public to inform them when using Chinese Lanterns

The growing popularity of Chinese lanterns, especially at weddings and beach BBQs, has prompted the British Coastguard to ask the public to give advance warnings when releasing them off and along the UK coastline

A recent incident between Bexhill and Pevensey in East Sussex led the Dover Coastguard to be called out to a sighting reported as a “red flare” sent up by a boat in distress. A Coastguard Rescue Team was sent to investigate the incident, where it turned out that a countless number of these lanterns had been released.

Portland Watch Manager Ros Evans said it was easy for the public to mistake the lanterns for a distress flare. She said:

“When we receive a report of a red flare being deployed we have to investigate. We don’t want to be killjoys, but if someone is thinking of releasing a Chinese lantern near the coast, they should let us know first. It will save us an awful lot of trouble. Rescue workers have to drop everything and go to pick up a Coastguard vehicle, and incidents such as this are taking up valuable resources

“The biggest worry is that genuine distress flares might get ignored, unreported and not investigated.”

Considered to be good luck in the Far East, the lanterns have only brought problems for the UK Coastguard. When lit they can soar to over a mile in the sky. Visible for up to 20 minutes on a clear night, the lanterns are increasingly mistaken for marine distress signals.

The public are being urged to inform the Coastguard if using the lanterns near the coast. They are also being asked to refrain from using them near airports, heath land or other areas likely to catch fire, and always avoid releasing them in built up residential areas.

There is also a growing concern from the NFU (National Farmers Union) who says the lanterns pose a risk to animal welfare and are a fire hazard when they land within crops, woodlands and farmyards. Now that the harvest is almost over the worry is that these lanterns will set fire to barns, which are stacked full of hay and straw.