COASTGUARDS have received excessive emergency calls on 999 lines with Worthing people claiming they have seen a ship in distress.
Solent Coastguard have been receiving “four or five” calls a night from people mistaking flashing lights on a 110 metre high meteorological mast off the coast of Worthing, for an SOS call on a ship.
The worried callers stretch as far as Beachy Head and Selsey Bill, and Liz Hanson, of the Solent Coastguard, said unless people are seafarers, they would not be able to tell the lights on the mast apart from a distress call.
Liz said: “The signal is clearly not an SOS, but if you’re not maritime trained you would not know that.
“Members of the public see a red light and something white flashing, and they assume they are seeing a red flare and somebody flashing SOS with a torch underneath it.”
The meteorological mast, or met mast, is about seven nautical miles south of Worthing Pier, and was installed to monitor wind speeds, currents and other factors in association with the proposed E.ON offshore wind farm.
The mast, which is visible in the day, shines a permanent red light, with a white light that flashes two short flashes, followed by one long flash, which indicates to mariners the code U – warning them of running into danger.
Liz added: “While Solent Coastguard would never wish to dissuade anyone from making a 999 call, if they suspect they are witnessing any person or vessel to be in distress, or requiring assistance, it would be very helpful to disseminate the above information to residents along the Sussex coast.”