LIFEBOAT volunteers on Wearside are among the busiest in the country, latest rescue figures show.
Crews at Sunderland RNLI were scrambled 86 times last year, coming to the rescue of dozens of stranded swimmers and sailors.
The station was the busiest in the north division, which stretches from Northumberland to Lincolnshire, followed by Skegness, with 69 launches, Redcar, 68, and Hartlepool, 67.
Andy Clift, regional RNLI Divisional Inspector, said: “The rescue figures just released show the remarkable commitment RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews have to saving lives.
“As well as the time actually spent rescuing people, all our volunteers spend many hours training both at sea and on land to ensure they are fully prepared when the call for help comes.”
Last year, crews in the north division rescued 1,013 people and launched 1,090 times, slightly below the 10-year average of 1,139.
The Wearside figure is also down from 117 launches in 2009.
“The number of rescues carried out is clearly affected by the number of people travelling to the coast and going out to sea,” said Mr Clift.
“We think the poor summer weather combined with the cold, snowy conditions we experienced at both the start and end of 2010 in the North may have kept some visitors away from the coast.
“On top of this, it’s possible the recession means people cut back on trips to the seaside.”
Around the UK and Ireland, lifeboats rescued 8,313 people while RNLI lifeguards assisted 18,775 people – including 1,469 incidents on beaches in Tyne and Wear, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Sefton, near Liverpool – during the summer season.
Nationally, the busiest lifeboat station was Tower, which is situated on the River Thames in central London, where crew members there launched 491 times, rescuing 113 people.
The RNLI is now calling on the public to support the charity on its national fund-raising day.
SOS Day, which will take place on Friday, will see its supporters, crew and staff out in force across Sunderland.
For more information on how to take part or make a donation, visit www.rnli.org.uk/sos or call 0845 121 4999.