THE last day of operations for the Portland Coastguard Helicopter will be June 30.

The date of closure has not previously been announced, although the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said last year the service would cease operations before the end of July.

It comes as supporters of the helicopter – which has saved countless lives – call for an event to thank all of those involved in the running of the service.

Borough councillor Ray Nowak asked a meeting of the management committee in December if a formal ‘thank you and farewell’ could be organised.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax backed the idea.

He said: “I would support entirely any official recognition of the dedication, professionalism and service that crews and back up staff of this wonderful base for the service they have given over many years. We are deeply indebted to them.

“I watch their departure still very much with regret.”

Mr Drax strongly spoke out against the closure of the base, and more than 100,000 people signed a petition in 2014 to try to keep it open.

While campaigners were left disappointed, it was revealed last year that the future of Portland as a helicopter base is secure, with Heli Operations– a company supplying trained helicopter personnel to companies worldwide – preparing a business plan for the Portland helicopter base site at Osprey Quay.

It means the base will have a refuelling facility for the search and rescue helicopter, although the SAR will have to come from Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire.

The date of the closure was revealed in a report by the Department of Transport on the number of call-outs for SARs across the country.

When contacted by the Dorset Echo, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed the base will cease SAR operations on June 30.

The Portland service was tasked 23 times between October and December 2016, compared with 25 times in the same period a year before.

Of these, eight were land-based, 12 around the coast and three at sea.

From January to March 2016 there were 19 call-outs; from April to June the figure was 33 and between July and September it was 41. The total number of call-outs in 2016 was 116.