Coast Guard Station Milford Haven, Va. won't be able to respond to emergencies around the clock anymore. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brandyn Hill

VA Coast Guard Station No Longer Manned 24/7 Due to Crew Shortage

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) Station Milford Haven, near Gwynn Island, Virginia, on the Middle Peninsula, no longer has crews on duty 24/7 to make water rescues.

It has been operating with a reduced staff since April 31, manned by Coast Guard members working scheduled shifts rather than all-day duty.

USCG District 5 public affairs officer Lt. Luke W. Pinneo says that the station has transitioned to a “Scheduled Mission Station” and is no longer manned 24 hours a day. The station’s status was changed under the USCG 2024 Force Alignment Initiative because of service-wide workforce shortages.

Lt. Pinneo said that the status is “temporary” and the move is meant to allow the Coast Guard to continue its lifesaving missions and obligations despite significant personnel shortages. 

Station Milford Haven hours are remaining flexible to “allow the crew to maximize support to the region with limited resources,” said Lt. Pinneo. 

Once there is sufficient personnel to manned Milford Haven, USCG will revisit the status of the station, he said. Crews are no longer on hand 24 hours for search and rescue but are instead scheduling boat operations and missions, along with training, maintenance, and unit administration at the station.

Meanwhile, when there are emergencies, Pinneo said that nearby stations such as Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and Saint Inigoes on Maryland’s Potomac River—approximately 27 and 47 nautical miles away, respectively—will respond. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and Smith Point Sea Rescue also volunteer their time patrolling and responding to emergencies.

Mariners can still use VHF Channel 16 or call this sector of the USCG Virginia Command Center on its 24-hour hotline, (757) 483-8567, for assistance.

Congressman Rob Wittman (Virginia R-1st District) was instrumental in 2021 in reversing a USCG plan to suspend operations at Station Milford Haven during the “off season” winter months and putting the station on a six-month seasonal schedule.

Wittman argued then that the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland USCG station on the Potomac were too far away for reasonable response times. “When water temperatures are below 50 degrees, time to survive is extraordinarily short,” he said in 2021.

Wittman said in an email last week through his spokesperson, “I was discouraged to see this adjustment to the (Station Milford Haven) schedule but I recognize the challenges faced by the Coast Guard as they deal with recruitment shortfalls.

“I will advocate for a return to the station’s regular schedule as soon as possible,” said Wittman. “I reassure the Chesapeake Bay community that they will still receive support from the Coast Guard and I am closely monitoring this change to ensure that the community receives the coverage it needs.”