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Rescue Services: Sky Lanterns and Helium Balloons

Question for Department for Transport

UIN 205660, tabled on 14 July 2014

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the implications for the Coastguard service of the conclusions in the report Sky lanterns and helium balloons, published by his Department in May 2013.

Answered on

17 July 2014

The report acknowledges the rise in incidents involving sky lanterns up to 2010 and the fall in incident numbers since that date. This trend continued into 2013, with 129 attributable incidents.

The MCA believes that this reduction is likely to have been assisted by the following mitigation:

  • Since 2009, the vast majority of manufacturers of sky lanterns appear to have complied with the request to place a warning on their packaging advising users not to release lanterns in the marine environment, and asking users to pre-warn the emergency authorities in the area if they intend to release lanterns. Some users have also complied with this request.

  • The MCA has distributed a short film via ‘YouTube' giving advice on the use of sky lanterns near the coast.

  • The MCA has also improved the instructions given to HMCG watchkeepers to assist their questioning of callers and information gathering, so that they can quickly establish the nature and particular characteristics of what the caller has observed in the sky.

  • Volunteer and full-time Coastguards include advice on the use of sky lanterns in the safety information they provide to members and organisations in their local communities.

The report shows no evidence of any adverse impacts of helium balloons on coastal rescue services.

Currently there is no legislation to prevent the use of sky lanterns. However, the MCA will continue to assess how to minimise the implications of their use generally.

No discussions have been held between Ministers at the Department for Transport and representatives of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) about the awareness and use of sky lanterns on the Coastguard's operations.

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