Mindless thieves are stealing lifesaving equipment and putting lives at risk in South Tyneside.
The Port of Tyne has seen an increase in the number of lifebelts disappearing or being thrown into the water for no apparent reason since the start of the school holidays.
South Shields and Tynemouth piers - where people enjoy views of the harbour entrance - each has 19 lifebelts to give the emergency services crucial time to respond to any incidents by keeping casualties afloat while they come to the rescue.
Although it is rare for visitors who behave responsibly to get into difficulty, the port wants to spread the message that lifebelts save lives.
Steven Clapperton, director of health and safety, environment and marine harbour master, said: “Although the lifebelts are put to proper use by the majority of people, the hot weather and school holidays see an increase in them being thrown from the piers for no reason.
“Lifebelts are vital lifesaving aids and the key piece of equipment which keeps people who have ended up in the water safe until the rescue services can get to them.”
“A missing lifebelt could mean the difference between life and death.”
The lifebelts, which are fastened to the piers at 100m intervals, are checked each time the port’s pier watchmen do a patrol - several times a day.
Members of the public are urged not to put themselves at risk in trying to recover any lifebelts but to report their sighting to the Port of Tyne.
The Port of Tyne invests £200,000 in pier maintenance each year.