The fight to save UK Coastguard rescue coordination centres is not over. We are urgently seeking volunteers who would be interested in becoming a local liaison officer or supporters to campaign as an extension of the National Coastguard SOS Campaign in local areas. If you are interested in learning more please email your contact details and information to

20.01.14. Latest FOI figures reveal worsening shift staffing crisis



Embargo:  for immediate use

From the office of : Katy Clark MP



Over 400 shifts under- staffed on west coast coastguard centre


The coastguard co-ordination centre responsible for the west coast of Scotland was below safe staffing levels on over 400 shifts in 2013. In answer to Parliamentary Questions throughout the year from Scottish Labour MP Katy Clark Government Ministers revealed that MRCC Belfast was staffed at below risk-assessed level on 428 of 730 shifts in 2013, 58% of the total. MRCC Belfast took over primary responsibility for the West Coast of Scotland following the closure of Greenock based MRCC Clyde in December 2012 as part of the Government’s decision to cut the number of coastguard co-ordination centres across the United Kingdom. Concerns were raised at that time by coastguard staff and MPs about staffing levels, the loss of local knowledge and the contingency arrangements in the event of a communications failure at Belfast.


Speaking on the subject Katy Clark said “The appalling number of unsafely staffed shifts at MRCC Belfast which is now responsible for the west coast of Scotland following the closure of Clyde coastguard station throughout 2013 shows just how poorly thought out the decision to close MRCC Clyde was. It seems clear to me that the decision was taken to close the Greenock station for cost reasons alone with maritime safety considerations merely an afterthought. It is deeply concerning that Belfast has been allowed to remain so badly understaffed for so long. I have genuine concerns about maritime safety off the west coast of Scotland. ”


“In September the Government claimed that the recruitment of new Maritime and Coastguard Agency staff would solve the problems and the number of understaffed shifts at Belfast dropped dramatically in October to 5 shifts out of 62. Since then however the number has crept up in consecutive months and in December was more than double the October figure. Properly risk-assessed staffing levels are the absolute minimum that the public have the right to expect from our coastguard agency, it is not simply an inconvenience that the Government can choose to ignore.”


The Member of Parliament for North Ayrshire and Arran has secured a meeting with Transport Minister Stephen Hammond to discuss how the situation can be improved in 2014.







Notes to editors:


In answer to Parliamentary Questions from Katy Clark MP throughout 2014 the Government revealed that MRCC Belfast was understaffed on the below number of shifts each month of the year.








































For more information please contact the office of Katy Clark MP on 0207 219 8667



The truth about under staffing at stations.

The Government and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) have been forced under FOI (Freedom of Information) requests to reveal the number of HM Coastguard staff on shift at Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCC’s) around the UK.

The truth is that the figures are truly alarming.

Since the MCA announced the final (current) plan to ‘modernise’ HM Coastguard by closing 50% of MRCC’s, there has been an understandable rise in staff leaving.




No shifts

No shifts under RA

% under RA






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RA = min. Risk Assessed level of staff required to provide effective & prompt response to Coastal/Sea emergency

However, it is not just staff from closing stations that are leaving – data released also shows large numbers of staff leaving ALL stations even from those deemed so called “safe” stations.

Here is an example of how the closure of Clyde MRCC has a significant effect on Belfast MRCC as it took on a significant proportion of extra work and West Coast of Scotland’s area of responsibility.

The immediate month that Clyde closed, Belfast saw a massive leap in the number of times that watch shifts are understaffed.

According to other figures released by the MCA, there is a FULL complement of staff at Belfast with no vacancies.

Prior to Belfast taking over a considerable amount of extra work and area of responsibility, Belfast only appears to have shift manning issues during high holiday periods.

It is significant to note that the Belfast MRCC Manager resigned his position just a couple of weeks after the station took on some of Clyde’s  responsibility.

The sheer scale of failure has not gone unnoticed either. Katy Clark MP (North Ayrshire and Arran), highlighted these concerns after forcing Transport Secretary Stephen Hammond to answer a Parliamentary question.

 According to the snapshot of data for Belfast, the alarming trend of failing to safely staff shifts continues.

 Worryingly, it’s not as if this example of Belfast is an isolated case, far from it in fact:

Understaffing of shifts increased dramatically for Aberdeen just prior to and after taking on responsibility for the area that Forth Coastguard used to be responsible for until its closure. Considering that this MRCC (Aberdeen) covers all the North Sea Oil and Gas production facilities, it has the staggeringly high understaffing rate of 96.67%.

The figures reveal that the worst understaffing at each MRCC ranges from 10% to 97%

London is the only MRCC not to have any understaffed shifts and has more staff than it should have according to the official MCA allocation of resources.

It begs the question, is this Government’s politics trying to ensure that any tragedy (due to the current disastrous closure plan) is kept well and truly away from Westminster’s doorstep?   It would certainly explain why the first MRCC closures took place in Scotland – the furthest away from the Houses of Parliament.

The Worst time for understaffing across UK is during Summer holidays when average across all stations is over 30%. This has been further exacerbated by the fine weather recently and a reported rise of at least 23% in incidents for HM Coastguard.

The risk of a tragedy which could be attributed (wholly or partly) to insufficient staff at an MRCC is now the highest it has ever been in the service’s modern history.

It has prompted the Coastguard SOS Campaign group to produce the TRAGEDY poster:

Of the stations that are not scheduled to be closed, Aberdeen, Dover, Belfast and Falmouth are all high risk MRCC’s that demonstrate signs of potential disaster, especially because of the Oil and Gas link for Aberdeen. The busiest shipping lane in the world is monitored at Dover while Falmouth is responsible for all international rescues. Belfast has some of the most hazardous coastline to look after.

The MRCC’s yet to be closed are also struggling, with significant problems showing at Thames, Portland and Liverpool and Swansea. Thames Coastguard that was recently subject of the BBC World at One report (01-08-2013) where the dire shift staffing was reported as running at an average of 65%.

The BBC report was one of the most accurate we have heard to date, citing enough facts and history to acquaint the listener with the reality of the current situation. It was deeply troubling to hear the Chief Coastguard Peter Dymond’s response to the staffing crisis as

“I think we are continuing to provide a first class service to the public and the mariner”

When challenged about Thames 65% under safe staffing levels Mr. Dymond said

“I think the evidence is there – they are continuing to perform and to handle Search and Rescue incidents – which they have always done. I can’t say anything else other than they are continuing to provide the service that the public expects of them.”

From this last comment, it must be taken that all comments to the press are strictly scripted and that there is a considerable air of complacency amongst Department for Transport (DfT) and MCA senior ranks.

In the interview the Thames MRCC watch manager continued to state the grave concerns that ultimately put lives of the public at risk.

When the interviewer (Andrew Bomford) asked the Chief Coastguard the direct question “Is it a Safe service”, Mr. Dymond replied:

“It is indeed a safe service and I think the point I must also make here is frontline resources: the search and rescue helicopters, RNLI lifeboats, Coastguard Rescue Teams are totally unaffected by this modernisation program”

This answer is a typical well rehearsed but worn out response which is inaccurate and insulting to MRCC Watch officers, as it implies that their role is of little significance in the rescue process. That is far from the truth as their role is pivotal to manage all of the rescue assets.  

As for the rescue assets being “totally unaffected” – this is untrue:

the ‘modernisation’ program is set to make changes to the structure of all HM Coastguard Rescue Teams.  Helicopter SAR is to be completely changed with the ending of all RN / RAF involvolment in civil SAR. In future Helicopter SAR  will  be provided by a private company (Bristow). The number of available aircraft for Helicopter SAR is reported to drop by nearly 50% with some existing bases closing.

It is clear that most MRCC’s are operating far below the level that has been established as safe according to the MCA’s own risk assessment. It is also self-evident that extra responsibilities and workload is a major potential for mistakes.

Unfortunately when tragedy strikes, it will be the Watch staff at the MRCC that will end up taking the blame!

This has happened before in the Aquila Inquest – and we have little doubt that it will happen again.

The future is extremely unsettling and bleak for every Coastguard Officer as the closures continue. Ultimately they all have to re-apply for their jobs to be a part of the new future Coastguard.

It is little wonder that morale is at an all time low and staff leaving.  In April the MCA told the Coastguard SOS Campaign group that they had recruited 30 new staff but it takes between 2 to 3 years to get qualified as a Watch Officer. (So don’t go hoping for an instant cure).


The MCA have clearly shown that the current closure plan for MRCC’s was ill conceived, inadequately managed and they have failed to achieve any credibility in the assurances given.

The staffing figures demonstrate the legitimacy of the Coastguard SOS campaign in every area, as closure of each of the three MRCC’s to-date has created a staffing nightmare for the adjacent stations taking over responsibility.

Mr Dymond as others before him has stated that the service is resilient because of the current “pairing” arrangements between stations. This “confidence” is ill judged and misleading because early in 2011 we were informed by several Coastguard officers from different stations that the “pairing” arrangement was, in reality, only on paper. It was not something which was regularly used as a method of support and a leaked MCA document confirmed this. Fast forward to today and the continued assurances about resilience in pairing should be regarded as empty rhetoric even more so because it is practically impossible for a station which is critically undermanned throughout the busiest period of the year to be able to offer any credible assistance to their paired station who may require it.

There can be little doubt in anyone’s mind about the utter folly of the current plan and the impact on public safety.

The truth is that those in charge of the future of the UK’s oldest 999 service have been downright complacent regarding risk to the public and are gambling with people’s lives.


 Maritime & Coastguard Agency respond to request for Information 09 July 2013


Detached duty:


Q. Please provide details of all occasions since January 2013 to date where a Coastguard officer (of any rank) has been assigned to provide watch keep duties at any MRCC other than his or her own usual station. Within the response please provide additional details as follows:


a. Which MRCC the officer was taken from

b. Which MRCC the officer was assigned to


a and b) The information provided below shows the number of staff assigned to provide watch keeping duties at any MRCC other than his or her usual station. To clarify, some of these staff were assigned to detached duty prior to January 2013, but were on detached duty as of January 2013.



Which MRCC the officer was taken from

Which MRCC the officer was assigned to


















































c. The method and regularity of travel to the MRCC in which detached duty if being provided (ie: Train / Weekly)


c. Due to the volume of this information it has been concluded that, in line with the provisions of FOIA, the cost of complying with this request in respect of each individual means that it would make the response exceed the appropriate cost limit of £600 (which equates to 24 hours’ work).  However, for your information employees on detached duty have a choice as to how they arrange accommodation at their detached duty station.  This usually falls into either of 2 categories:-


1. Some employees are content to stay in B&Bs (or similar) and travel home between ‘watch rounds’.

2. Some employees prefer to stay in a more settled environment and would arrange for short-term rental accommodation.  By definition, these people would travel home less frequently.


d. The costs that are being incurred by the MCA in terms of overtime and travel etc for each period of detachment.


d. Again due to the volume of this information in terms of assessing the level of overtime and travel, would make the response exceed the appropriate cost limit of £600 (which equates to 24 hours’ work). To clarify though, the policy is that we support certain ‘extra’ living costs and travel expenses to ensure that the employee is not out-of-pocket whilst carrying out these duties.



Current staffing levels


Q. Please provide an up-to-date breakdown of the number of staff at each MRCC including the following information:


a. Complement of staff expected at each MRCC

b. Actual compliment of staff at each MRCC as of today


a and b) Complement and Actual staff numbers per MRCC as of 23/07/2013





London Coastguard

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Aberdeen

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Belfast

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Brixham

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Dover

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Falmouth

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Holyhead

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Humber

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Liverpool

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Milford Haven

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Portland

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Shetland

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Solent

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Stornoway

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Swansea

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


MRCC Thames

Complement FTE



Actual FTE


Total Complement FTE



Total Actual FTE





Q.  The number of staff at each MRCC unavailable to work through sickness from April 1st 2013 to date:


The Long term sickness figures from the following Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres are:

  • 2 Milford Haven,
  • 1 Shetland,
  • 1 Falmouth,
  • 1 Belfast,
  • 2 Dover,
  • 1 Aberdeen


Q. The number of staff at each MRCC unavailable to work through maternity from April 1st 2013 to date:


The numbers of staff on maternity leave from the following Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres from April 1st 2013 to date:

  • 1 Brixham,
  • 1 Solent,
  • 3 Liverpool
  • 1 Holyhead


Q. The number of staff at each MRCC location that are working there on detached duty from another station from April 1st 2013 to date:


  • 3 Aberdeen
  • 2 Belfast
  • 1 Holyhead
  • 3 Humber
  • 3 Liverpool
  • 2 Stornoway
  • 2 Thames

25.07.13. Last year the Irish Government scrapped plans to close Coastguard rescue coordination centres – Yesterday the tall ship ASTRID was lost off the Irish coast. Its reported that 30 crew members were saved. Among the resources used (but not limited to) were 4 Lifeboats, local vessels and 2 Irish Coastguard SAR helicopters. – Well done to everyone involved in the rescue. The crew can be thankful that the Irish Government came to their senses and scrapped the closure plan – Now we need the British Government to do likewise!



Link to Yachting Monthly magazine article. July 2013.

Coastguard cuts – has our safety been compromised?  P011_YAM_JUL13 (2)


From the office of Katy Clark MP

MPs to meet with Minister over unsafe coastguard staffing levels
Members of Parliament representing constituencies along the West Coast of Scotland will be attending a meeting with Transport Minister Stephen Hammond to discuss coastguard staffing levels on July 4th. The meeting was secured by Member of Parliament for North Ayrshire and Arran Katy Clark after the Government was forced to admit in answers to Parliamentary Questions from the Scottish Labour MP that Maritime Coastguard Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Belfast has been staffed at below risk assessed levels on over 200 shifts in the first five months of 2013. MRCC Belfast took over primary responsibility for coordinating coastguard services for the West Coast of Scotland following the closure of Greenock based MRCC Clyde in December 2012. Concerns were raised at the time of the closure that the Government’s decision to cut the number of coordination centers would compromise maritime safety along Scotland’s West Coast. In November 2012 the Scottish Affairs Select Committee published a report highly critical of the closures.

Speaking on the subject Ms. Clark said “It is alarming that the Government has allowed the station responsible for coordinating the West of Scotland’s coastline to remain unsafely staffed for so long. For months now I have been highlighting the high number of shifts staffed at below risk assessed levels at MRCC Belfast and yet the figures for May show that shifts remain unsafely staffed well over 50% of the time.”

“When the Government announced the closure of MRCC Clyde coastguard staff, seafarers and MPs were queuing up to highlight the potential problems this would cause. Despite these early warnings the Government pressed ahead and now that these problems are being borne out it appears either unable or unwilling to take the measures necessary to resolve them. I hope the Minister is now willing to listen to the concerns of those worried about the West Coast’s maritime safety and take action as a matter of urgency.”


11th June 2013.

The Coastguard SOS team are very saddened to received reports that Sir Alan Massey, Chief Executive of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency is unwell after suffering a heart attack last weekend.

We may have differing opinions on certain issues but Sir Alan has always proven to be a gentleman and we wish him a full and speedy recovery..

It is reported that the Director of Maritime Operations; Richard Parkes has taken over in Sir Alan’s absence.


21st May 2013

Following an invitation from the Director of Maritime Operations, Richard Parkes for the campaign group to meet with the MCA in April, further questions were submitted to the MCA and the following responses were received 20.05.13.

Despite the “eagerness”of those present at the meeting to interact with the campaign group, the MCA have responded to some questions with “non-answers” and have even attempted to re-write history by suggesting that the closure of Forth, Clyde, Yarmouth, Solent, Portland and Brixham is a Coastguard SOS proposal ??….

They really arrogant fools if that think its acceptable to attempt to lay the blame for station closures on the national Coastguard SOS campaign group who have campaigned against the closure of any MRCC from day one!

1. MRCC’s at Brixham, Portland and Solent are due to close 2013/14. Please indicate the known or likely closure date / month / year for each station.

The current closure dates are as published in the Announcement Document published on 22 November 2011.

2. There are conflicting accounts of the number of vacancies around the coast at MRCC’s. Please indicate the actual figure.

The conflicting accounts of the number of vacancies are due to some people incorrectly including the former posts at Forth, Clyde and Yarmouth as vacancies; they are not. The correct number of vacancies as at 10 May 2013 is 52.3 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) posts.

3. During the meeting it was announced that 30 new appointments had been made last week. Please confirm the MRCC locations for these appointments, and where applicable, whether any of those appointed have previous operational experience within MRCC’s or the coast rescue service.

The new entrants will go to Holyhead, Liverpool, Shetland, Stornoway, Belfast, Aberdeen, Humber, Thames Solent, Brixham, Portland, Falmouth and Swansea. Their backgrounds are varied but all passed the minimum standards set down for entry to the Watch Officer grade.

4. Following the formal closure of Yarmouth Coastguard, all responsibility for that area will be passed to Humber Coastguard. Our understanding is that it is intended that Thames Coastguard will offer some form of back‐up to Humber until their closure. Where will similar back‐up be available to Humber after the closure of Thames Coastguard?

When MRCC Thames closes the Coastguard Operations Centre (CGOC) at Humber will be part of the new National Network and mutual support will be available from teams of Coastguard Officers within the whole national network comprised of the National Maritime Operations Centre (NMOC) and all 9 CGOCs.

5. In the early stages after modernisation plans were announced, much of the information regarding the choice of stations to close was relating to expiry of current building leases. Please confirm whether or not MCA HQ at Spring Place is leased and if so, from which date and until when, and also whether any consideration has been given to moving the location of HQ to the MOC in Fareham in order to make further financial savings.

Spring Place is subject to a 25 year lease from 1 January 1993 to 31 December 2017. No consideration has been given to moving the location of MCA HQ to the NMOC as the Kites Croft building is of insufficient size to accommodate MCA HQ.

6. Given that HMCG is not protected from further demands by the current or any future Government to make further savings, has any consideration been given to dropping the expensive MOC concept, abandoning the remaining station closure plan, using the location of the MOC as a South coast “super centre” incorporating Brixham, Portland and Solent and to making the communication links to all remaining MRCC’s more robust in order to increase resilience whereupon an MRCC can call upon additional support from a minimum of two flanking stations as opposed to the current “paired” system?

We believe the concept of the National Network, with the MOC at its heart, provides both significant operational improvements and value for money; no consideration has been given to moving away from this concept.
The Coastguard SOS proposal (the closure of Forth, Clyde, Yarmouth, Solent, Portland and Brixham with the NMOC becoming a MRCC for the South Coast , with improved communications links to all the remaining MRCCs) would be both more expensive and operationally inferior to the Future Coastguard structure being implemented:
The construct would be less resilient as mutual support would only be available from two centres rather than the whole national network and be limited by geography (centres being clustered).
This alternative construct would not have an operational national management function to coordinate the work of the Coastguard as a national service.

7. Prior to the meeting last week we had received several communications regarding incomplete or no regular weather updates from Humber Coastguard. Please explain the MCA’s priority of this service and what if anything is being done to address it at present.

During the period of time that MRCC Yarmouth was on day time only operations there were instances where MSI broadcasts were not completed on a regular basis; this was due to higher priority Search and Rescue working taking precedence. This is a feature of the current concept of operations where work cannot be shared more widely than the pairings and lower priority work is therefore set aside at peak times. It should be noted that these weather broadcasts continued to be available from other sources such as Navtex.
The new national network will enable a more efficient and flexible deployment of staff which will mean that tasks such as weather broadcasts will not need to be set aside at peak times. They will be re‐allocated to another within the national network with the capacity to take on the task. The MSI schedule for MRCC Humber following the closure of MRCC Yarmouth is attached at annex A.

8. Please confirm how many expressions of interest the MCA has received from officers willing to consider applying for positions at the MOC and also how many have been altered or withdrawn during the process to date.

69 staff expressed an interest in working at the MOC of these only 1 has since altered their position.

9. The dramatic fall in numbers of staff prior to the closure of Forth and Yarmouth Coastguard meant that those stations were left with dangerously low staff levels. Similar problems are already being experienced at Liverpool Coastguard although they are not due to formally close until 2014/15. How does the MCA intend to address this specific problem before it becomes impossible for an MRCC to carry out its rescue coordination duties safely?

The MCA are currently recruiting Coastguard Officers to help address these situations; however it will take time for new recruits to become fully operational. MCA are also actively exploring moving internal resources on detached duty to give added strength where it might be needed most.
These situations are also mitigated on a day‐to‐day operational basis by the existing MRCC ‘Pairing’ arrangements where each MRCC is connected to at least one other MRCC which is available to provide mutual support.

10. Is the MCA content with progress being made on the FINTAN project to date and how is it determined that sufficient knowledge is being captured prior to any Coastguard officer leaving service?

As part of the FINTAN project Coastguards have currently added approximately 6,800 place names not already shown on Ordnance Survey maps.
Particular attention has been paid to the Clyde, Forth and Yarmouth areas prior to their closure and Coastguards from the three stations, currently on detached duty elsewhere, are still involved in the project.
The population of vernacular place names will continue to be an ongoing process for Coastguard Officers reflecting the dynamic nature of local and regional geographical information.

Annex A:

HUMBER Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts
Following the transfer of operational responsibilities from Yarmouth MRCC to Humber MRCC a combined broadcast will be made by Humber MRCC as follows
At 01:50, 04:50, 07:50, 10:50, 13:50, 16:50, 19:50 and 22:50 each day.
Comprising of
Inshore forecast and Navigation Warnings for the areas,

Berwick on Tweed to Whitby

Whitby to Gibraltar Point

Gibraltar Point to North Foreland
Gale Warnings and Shipping Forecast for




German Bight,

Additionally Humber MRCC broadcast the Three‐day fisherman’s forecast
(October – March)
On the aerials at

Newton, Boulby, Flamborough, Boulby Trimmingham, Guys Head and Lowestoft on VHF Channel 23

Mabletrhope on VHF Channel 84

Cullercoats, Ravenscar, Easington Langham and Yarmouth on VHF Channel 86
Along with Flamborough MF on 1925 at the 01:50, 07:50, 13:50 and 19:50 as appropriate.



1st May 2013 – Yarmouth Coastguard give final shipping broadcast before handing over East coast coordination duties to Humber

BBC News: 1 May 2013 Last updated at 12:32

Great Yarmouth coastguard centre shuts after cuts

Lifeboat (RNLI)Eight coastguard centres around the UK are being closed

Great Yarmouth’s coastguard centre has closed as the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) looks to “modernise” its service around the East of England.

The agency said full operational responsibility had been transferred to Humber coastguard, with further support from the Thames coastguard in Essex.

It said there would be no reduction in crews, lifeboats or helicopters.

Coastguard SOS believes the loss of local knowledge could hit response times around Norfolk and Suffolk.

The government originally wanted to cut the number of 24-hour coastguard co-ordination centres around the UK from 18 to three but, following an outcry, agreed to look again at the plans.

Clyde and Forth stations closed last year, with Great Yarmouth becoming the third to be shut out of eight. It covered Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.

It is predicted about 159 jobs around the UK will go through the cutbacks, but no compulsory redundancies have occurred out of Yarmouth’s 25 staff, MCA said.

Safety ‘top priority’Thames coastguard at Walton-on-the-Naze is being closed in 2014-15, with limited functions such as radio masts remaining at the centre.

After that, all distress calls on the Norfolk and Suffolk coast will be diverted to Humber station.

Chief coastguard Peter Dymond said: “Safety is our top priority and I am confident the same high-quality search-and-rescue service will be maintained throughout.

“There will be no reduction in front-line rescue resources. The availability of lifeboats, rescue helicopters, Coastguard Rescue Teams and other rescue facilities in the area will be unaffected.

“I am very grateful to the staff at Yarmouth coastguard, who have served this region and the local communities here with great dedication and professionalism over many years.”

Dennis O’Connor, from Coastguard SOS, said: “We’re not at all convinced by what the government and the MCA are proposing.

“We don’t believe it’s safe and it’s an untested system that they’re moving towards.

“The question is whether we will be able to coordinate rescues and task the correct teams to incidents in a safe and responsive time.”




Following reports that Liverpool MRCC only had one CWA on watch on Saturday night because of critical staff shortages, further information suggests that at some stage two Station Officers, and one Deputy SO from nearby Coast rescue teams agreed to go into the ops room at Liverpool in order to assist.

This is genuinely a tremendous move by those officers who undoubtedly did it for safety reasons and the MCA and Government should be damn grateful that they did. However, what this does underline is that the MCA are taking massive risks with public safety.

It seems nothing happened on Saturday night but what if something had happened? Those senior officers would not have been trained in procedures or on how to use the equipment at the MRCC and therefore it is unlikely that they would have been able to do anything other than despair. For the MCA to place these people in this situation is unacceptable and negligent.

The officers in question placed a high priority for HM Coastguard and public safety before their families at Easter. They will be used to doing this as all SAR Volunteers are and recognition of this is rightly deserved.

We should all be very concerned that Coastguard officers and us are being forced to accept the rubbish that has been washed up on our coastlines from Southampton and Westminster. We may not be “experts” but some things are blatantly obvious. The MCA and Government are destroying the credibility and resilience of HM Coastguard and are placing Coastguard officers and the public at risk.


01.04.13. Coastwatch volunteers gagged over Coastguard station closure plans

Why are NCI doing this?

To: All Station Managers, National Officers
Cc: Honorary President, Trustees
From: Richard Hews, National Public Relations Officer
Date: Friday 29th March 2013
Subject: Statement Re UK SAR Helicopters

Following a meeting with Sir Alan Massey, Chief Executive Officer of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the attached internal MCA briefing notes on the recently published
UK SAR helicopter contract awarded to Bristow have been passed to the Chairman and are therefore circulated for information only.

In the meantime, our stance in response to any external enquiries, including those from the media, remains unchanged. It is not for members of NCI to comment externally regarding the future operation of MCA or UK SAR helicopters

In the event of persistent media requests for comment, these should be referred to Richard Hews, National Public Relations Officer, on 07774 108186.




Nine Coastguard volunteers including the Station Officer and Dep Station Officer have resigned from Walney Coastguard team.

A spokesman said “We can confirm that nine people have resigned from the Walney Coastguard team because we feel we have been put in a position where we cannot operate safely for a variety of reasons and have no confidence in the local or regional management.”

This action has been taken following months of dispute which has yet to be resolved by the MCA and once again calls into question the commitment of the MCA to address any concerns and to look after its officers.

Any Coastguard officer or CRO will tell you that this is not a decision which would have been taken lightly by those who have resigned and undoubtedly they will all feel that there was no other option available to them to settle the dispute.

It is a very sad time for those Coast rescue officers and for their community and a time of shame for those at the MCA who failed to resolve the dispute.




Following an article which we linked to on this page last weekend, a new article has been published in which the MCA claim that there was no confusion over an incident which took place at Greenock.

In the interests of promoting fairness so that everyone may have the opportunity review the latest article which contains information from the MCA we are happy to link to it once again.

The original article was published on the information that was given by what is reasonable to assume, credible sources – the first informant and her MP. We had no reason to doubt the credibility of the information that was published and although the MCA’s account is remarkably different, it would not be appropriate for us to say (as others have strongly suggested) that the first informant lied.

Despite the headline of the most recent article, we would argue that confusion does in fact still exist because of two very different accounts being reported. This is something which should concern us.

It should also be said that on the original fb link a response was posted which indicated clearly that rescue services were on scene within a very short time of being deployed but we were unable to obtain an further information which might have shed more light on the incident before now.

As a campaign group we do not seek to sensationalise things. We have always been prepared to receive input or advice and information from anyone who feels that a different angle could be put forward. This ethos remains steadfast.

We publish links to articles and comment as we see fit. We have a right to form an opinion as everyone else does and we have a right to hear what the truth is about these closure plans. Until the Government and MCA can offer credible reasons why their way is the correct way forward for the future of HM Coastguard and the safety of coast users then we will continue to campaign the way that we have been doing and carry on providing a voice for concerned Coastguard officers.




Confusion over coastguard response to fishing boat grounding off Greenock

Posted on March 23, 2013 newsroom

navy buildings greenock

Constituents of Labour MP Iain Mackenzie – an elderly couple and their neighbour  – witnessed a fishing vessel run onto the rocks near the Navy Buildings in Greenock on Thursday night  [21st March].

Ironically, the former Clyde Coastguard, closed in the name of the ‘modernisation’ of the coastguard service,  used to be based in these same Navy Buildings.

The grounding of the fishing boat was so close to the shore that these witnesses were able to call to the two men on board.

One of the witnesses then called the Coastguard and was put through to Belfast. She is said to have been on the phone for 45 minutes with no sign of assistance arriving for the distressed boat.

She was instructed to ask her husband and next door neighbour to go down to the water’s edge with a torch, to assist in identifying the rescue area to any coastguard boats.

No Coastguard assistance was witnessed arriving either by sea or air. One of the male witnesses concerned is understood to have taken photographs of what happened that evening.

Mr Mackenzie was told that what looked like another fishing boat came to the stricken ship’s assistance and managed to tow them back into deeper water where, later, the Police boat appeared.

The obvious worry is that 45 minutes on the phone to Belfast looks like no or very slow response to this incident, taking place on the doorstep of the former Clyde Coastguard.

Mr Mackenzie will be asking questions of Belfast and Police to ascertain the facts around this peculiar series of events. He is aware that his constituents were extremely worried both during and after the incident.

The MCA has, unusually, made no reference to this incident on its website.

We have published reports recently, with  no denial from anyone, that Belfast Coastguard, although apparently over staffed, has been experiencing difficulty in achieving even minimum manning of shifts; and particularly, has been struggling to man the phones.

The experience of the MPs constituents in Greenock over this incident would appear to be consistent with these reports.

This situation appears to have developed following the additional burden of responsibility placed on Belfast following the closure of Clyde. Belfast had to assume the obligation for the massive sea area Clyde Coastguard had watched over [from the Mull of Galloway to Ardnamurchan Point and out to Tiree and Coll] – in addition to their existing responsibility for the entire coast of Northern Ireland.

Stornoway Coastguard – which had been slated to close as well but was reprieved – was later asked to take over part of the northern area of the former Clyde Coastguard sea area.

National Coastguard SOS campaign response

Dennis O’Connor, of the vigilant National Coastguard SOS campaign which has stood resolutely against what appears to be a singularly ill-conceived and ill-managed revision of the UK coastguard service, says of this incident: ‘This elderly couple have been forced to experience concern and frustration at the obvious failure of MRCC Belfast to either identify the location or deploy the nearest available rescue resources. This is just unacceptable.

‘Thankfully, it would appear from the report of the incident, that no lives were put in imminent peril but that is most certainly by fortune rather than design.

‘The UK Government and Maritime & Coastguard Agency have repeatedly stated that the transition of coordination responsibilities from Clyde to Belfast has been successful – but this is the another such incident where the rescue coordination from Belfast has resulted in delay. Government departments and agencies involved in this fundamental and disorderly change to the service. They must be held accountable.’


13.03.13. Government response to the second Transport Select Committee inquiry of 2012-13 shows continued arrogance towards legitimate concerns of Coastguards, MP’s and campaigners by the MCA and Ministers of the DfT.

The response is misleading, some issues have not been addressed, some details are inaccurate or outdated and clear recommendations have been ignored.

Full responses to the report will follow

“On 12 February 2013 we received the Government reply to our Sixth Report of 2012-13, The Coastguard, Emergency Towing Vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group: follow up. We publish this reply with this report. The Government has responded comprehensively to our recommendations, particularly in relation to how the Coastguard Service will operate once the new Maritime Operations Centre is opened. However, we continue to receive worrying information from coastguards about staffing levels, management culture, morale and the arrangements for closing MRCCs. We note that the Government has changed its plans for the winding down of Yarmouth MRCC so that it opens only in the daytime from 4 March, despite earlier ruling out MRCCs operating only during daytime. We have written to the Minister to pursue these matters: our letter is also published with this report. We have applied for a debate in the House of Commons on the Coastguard Service to ensure that these issues are properly addressed during the reform process”.

Click on this link to read the full report of visit the Transport Select Committee page on this website


Strains visible across UK coastguard service

Posted on March 12, 2013 by newsroom


With the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastal Agency [MCA] driving a ‘modernisation’ of the coastguard service around the UK that has already cost Scotland Forth Coastguard and Clyde Coastguard, we have seen papers obtained under FoI that demonstrate the strains under which the  transitional service is now operating. It is running at 12.7% below its currently required staffing capacity.

The House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee, in the two hearings it conducted into this matter, was concerned about the leaching away from the service of experienced staff.

Obviously, in the scale of the planned shrinkage of the service, staff would be lost. Indeed the reduction of staffing levels was central to the cost savings in the proposal – which is to install a communications network run from a single national incident coordination centre in Fareham in Hampshire, on the south coast of England.

The Transport Department [DfT] and the MCA assured the Transport Committee that staffing would reduce, much by voluntary movement and natural wastage over a three year period and that although there would be a loss of local knowledge with some of the departures, that would be taken care of by a database of place names that is to be introduced.

As we and others pointed out, it is hard to see quite how such a database would help a non-Gaelic speaker linking up the look of a place name in an unfamiliar language in an unfamiliar location. with its pronunciation coming over a mobile phone or on VHF by a mariner in distress. Such a person may or may not speak Gaelic, with neither eventuality a help.

The documents we have seen show that the leaching away of staff from the coastguard service has been much faster and deeper than the responsible planning authorities had envisaged.

With only two coastguard stations closed to date – both in Scotland [Forth and Clyde]  – 107 staff have already left the service. This is around three quarters of the total the MCA expected to have lost by the end of the programme of station closures.  Yet six more stations are still to close over that period: Portland, Liverpool, Brixham, Yarmouth, Swansea and Thames.

When the new national incident cooordination centre at Fareham in Hampshire comes onstream, with a luxuriously planned staff of around 96, the actual sea areas around the UK coasts will be run by the following Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centres [MRCCs], clockwise from the north east: Shetland; Aberdeen, Humber; Dover; Solent; Falmouth; Milford Haven; Holyhead; Belfast; Stornoway; and a small river facility at London, with a complement of 7, currently overstaffed by 2.

The FOI revelations on operating strengths

We have seen official MCA tables on the required capacities for all of the UK’s currently operational coastguard stations; and for the each of their actual staffing levels. These were obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, but not by us.

Our analyses on these figures shows the following situations in UK coastguard cover:

  • Scottish waters are running at just over 10% below capacity.
  • Entire UK east coast, including Shetland, is at just over 22% below capacity.
  • East coast of England is at just under 19% below capacity.
  • Entire UK west coast, including Belfast and Stornoway, is at 9% below capacity.
  • West coast of England and Wales is operating at 18% below capacity.
  • South coast of UK [and England] is at 11% below capacity.

The situation in Scotland

In Scotland, the plan had originally been to leave the entire coast, including the Orkney and Shetland Isles, in the care of a single Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre at Aberdeen.

While some common sense and a lot of protest at the daftness of this brought a reprieve for the Shetland and Stornoway stations, the staffing situation in and for Scotland is not where it should be.

Each remaining coastguard station in the UK has a given complement of staff it is supposed to meet for normal operations.

The crucial Aberdeen station is actually the single station in the UK whose staffing is furthest below its set complement. It should have a total of 31 [10 Watch Assistants [CWA (O)]; 16 Watch Officers; 4 Watch Managers; and 1 Rescue Coordination Centre Manager].

It is 9.5 staff short of that complement, with only 2.5 instead of 10 Watch Assistants; and 14 rather than 16 Watch Officers.

While its formal complement is relatively generous, there will certainly be strains in managing its massive sea area which includes much of the North Sea oil and gas fields and now, additionally, the sea area formerly under the control of Forth Coastguard.

It is likely that the complement for Aberdeen was increased after the closure of Forth; and that the station has not yet come up to its new staffing levels. The problem here is that the station has immediately had to assume the added responsibility of the absorption of Forth’s sea area – but without, yet, the staff it needs to provide that cover without undue strain.

Concerns on this staffing position are heightened by the fact that the Coastguard station fourth furthest away from its complement is Shetland, which now too has added responsibilities it is working to embrace. Shetland is 5.43 staff below complement, with 6.57 Watch Officers where they should have 12.

Stornoway, slated to close but retained  – after substantial protest – to cover the busy and environmentally critically Minches, currently has almost two staff over its given complement. It has 1 extra Watch Manager, 0.97 extra Watch Officer and is down by 1 Watch Assistant.

Stornoway was recently tasked with additional responsibility, stretching south to Ardnamurchan Point, to take the northern part of the former Clyde Coastguard sea area from a foolishly overcommitted Belfast. It is possible that Stornoway’s staffing represents its total existing commitments and that its formal complement has not yet been revised upwards.

Then there is a puzzle over the staffing situation at Belfast, now responsible, as before, for all of the sea area of the coast of Northern Ireland and additionally  for much of the vast sea area formerly under Clyde Coastguard.

Belfast has a complement of 23 staff but is showing as overstaffed at 25.64 – with one extra Watch Manager’ 0.57 extra Watch Officer time; and 1.07 extra Watch Assistants.

Despite this apparently very healthy staffing situation, we are being told of evidence of a real staffing problem at Belfast.

The coastguard system works on two 12 hour watches in every 24 hours Staffing complements are set at double the minimum watch strength, plus a few – 23. Belfast is down as currently having 25.64.

A check was recently carried out on 53 watches out of 56 consecutive watches at Belfast. Of these 53 watches surveyed, only 9 reached the minimum level of 5 on watch; 28 recorded 4 on watch; and on 16 occasions there were only 3 on watch.

Even when there were apparently 3 staff on watch, the shift would start with only 2 and an extra coastguard would have to be called out at short notice – on occasion taking up to 2 hours to get into work.

Each watch keeper is allowed 1.5 hours break within their 12 hour watch.

With watches apparently operating below the minimum staffing level, this must mean that some watch keepers are going without breaks to support the service. Honourable as this is at an individual level, it is hardly an acceptable situation, raising concerns for Health and Safety and for personal well-being.

Easter is on the near horizon, with an increase to Medium of the risk assessment level, which should mean an extra person on watch at each station. How will this be possible?

The difficulty in meeting the minimum watch manning level squares with other stories we are hearing – that Belfast is struggling to answer phone calls from team members answering their pagers.

These responses need to be recorded so that the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre [MRCC] can account for those attending an incident. Belfast appears to have trouble in mustering the watch staff to deal with the volume of phone traffic at the beginning of an incident.

The must means that data is not being kept up to date, presenting safety issues for Coastal Safely Teams and potentially lengthening the time before a Coastguard arrives at the scene of an incident.

The overall coastguard cover for Scottish Waters, from Belfast, Stornoway, Shetland and Aberdeen is running with 89.68 staff as opposed to the required complement of 100, therefore operating at just over 11% below capacity.

The situation on the east coast of England

On the English east coast, Yarmouth coastguard is to be closed and is now the second worst staffed station in the UK after Aberdeen, eight short of its complement. The station does not now have a full time Manager; it has 3 fewer Watch Officers than it should; and 5 fewer Coastguard Watch Assistants.

Because of this low staffing level, – Yarmouth was reduced to daylight hours operations only, with Humber tasked to provide night time cover for the Yarmouth sea area.

It would appear that Humber Coastguard has suffered continued communication failures since it assumed responsibility for night cover of the Yarmouth Coastguard area. Following this pattern of failure, Yarmouth Coastguard has been instructed to resume full time coordination duties until the communication problems have been fixed.

This is an embarrassment for the MCA which, with the DfT, ploughed on with the downgrading of Yarmouth, even though they were fully aware of Humber’s problems with communication links. The loss of communications by Humber had led to the East coast being left without cover for critical periods.

There are three stations on the English east coast, at Humber, Yarmouth and Thames. Two are to close, Yarmouth and Thames – and are all operating below complement.

  • We have seen above that Yarmouth, short of 8 staff,  is the second worst staffed station in the UK after Aberdeen.
  • Humber is down 3, with 1 extra Watch Manager, short on 3 Watch Officer and 1 Watch Assistant.
  • Thames is down 3.4, short of 1 Watch Manager, 2 Watch Officers and 0.4 of Watch Assistants.

This means that the east coast of England is operating with a total of 64.15 rather than 79 staff. This is 18.78% below capacity – and in a situation where:

  • the nearest station to the north is Aberdeen, already the second busiest and the worst staffed in the UK and already absorbing the former Forth coastguard’s sea area;
  • and the first southerly neighbour is Dover, the busiest station in the  UK and understaffed by 2.5 on its normal commitments.

The entire east coast of the UK – including Aberdeen and Shetland, is running with 103.23 staff against a required capacity of 133, therefore operating at just over 22% below capacity. This area overs the dangerous North Sea area, with the UK’s oil and gas industry and fast developing offshore major wind farm installations in locations down its length.

The situation on the west coast of England and Wales

On the English and Welsh west coast there are currently four coastguard stations, Liverpool, Holyhead, Milford Haven and Swansea. Two are to close – Liverpool and Swansea and all four are currently under their staffing complement.

  • Liverpool is 5 staff short – with two Watch Managers over complement and 7 Watch Officers under it, with 5 instead of the necessary 12. If Liverpool loses any more staff, it is likely also to be put on daytime hours operations only.
  • Holyhead is 3.9 below complement, 4 Watch Officers short, with 8 out of 12; and 0.1 Watch Assistant time over complement.
  • Milford Haven is 2 under complement, short of 5 Watch Officers but with 3 extra Watch Assistants.
  • Swansea is the station third furthest below its due complement – short of 6.5 staff: with 11 Watch Officers rather than 13; and 4.5 Watch Assistants instead of 9.

The west coast of England and Wales is running with 79 instead of the required complement of 96.4 staff, operating at 18% below capacity.

If you add Belfast and Stornoway to get the entire UK west coast picture, this complete coastline is running on 129.61 staff instead of 142.4, therefore operating at just under 9% below capacity.

The position on the south coast of England

With the choking maritime traffic through the English Channel and the presence of major naval ports, it is uncomfortable to see that all of the current Coastguard stations on this manic stretch of coastline are below their staffing complements.

There are currently five – at Dover, Solent, Portland, Brixham and Falmouth, with two – Portland and Brixham, to close and the new national Maritime Incident Coordination Centre at Fareham in Hampshire to come onstream at some point.

  • Dover is short by 2.5 in total – 2 down in Senior Watch Managers, 2 up on Watch Managers,
  • Solent is 2.26 down in total, with 13.74 Watch Officers rather than 16.
  • Portland is a total of 1.36 down, with 3.57 Coastguard Watch Assistants over complement and 4.93 Watch Officers fewer than its complement of 12.
  • Brixham is down by 4, 3.5 short on Watch Officers and 0.5 on Watch Assistants.
  • Falmouth, the most westerly, is 3 short in total, with 1 extra Watch Officer and 4 fewer Coastguard Watch assistants than required.

In total, the staffing levels in the south coast service are at 121.88, instead of the required complement of 137, operating at just over 11% under capacity.

The Coastguard Rescue Service [CRS]

Too little attention has been paid to the Coastguard Rescue Service to date, in terms of how that part of the overall coastguard service is being affected by the revision of the service.

These are the land-based coastguard staff, called out to search coastlines in the vicinity of reported incidents.

We have been given sight of a letter written by a serving Coastguard Rescue Officer – from which any reference to his station has been removed to safeguard the officer from retribution.

The letter reads:

‘For the first time since joining the Coastguard service, I am seriously considering leaving the service. Morale in the CRS is the lowest I can remember, with the widely-held view that MCA management neither care about us nor see a need to communicate with us about the future direction of the Coastguard.

‘I have yet to hear a convincing explanation of how the Future Coastguard programme will work and how it will affect the CRS. I don’t know who will call me out, manage me at incidents or be responsible for my safety. All I hear are vague platitudes about the service being ‘improved’ and ‘enhanced’, although I cannot see how this can happen with fewer stations, fewer full-time Coastguards and a distinct possibility that we will be managed by people who have never set foot in our area, let alone know our patch.

‘It is the safety element that is causing me the greatest concern. At present, if I am called out to conduct a search in the early hours, I know I have colleagues watching over me who know me and my team-mates and who know the area. If I ask for backup, they will usually provide it in the knowledge that I am the man on the ground and I know what is happening.

‘The thought of a Coastguard in Fareham, Belfast, Scotland or anywhere else outside of our area being responsible for my safety while also running several other incidents spread over a wide area frankly terrifies me. I have heard from CROs in other areas who are already experiencing problems (and outright hostility in some cases) from having to deal with new management teams who are often under immense pressure themselves in making a new, untried system work.

‘I am only too aware of the numbers of full-time Coastguard staff who are leaving the service and am concerned that it will be the part-time staff like me that will be left to pick up the pieces when things go wrong. Increased loss of life, in my view, is inevitable and I am genuinely concerned that my team-mates and I will be less safe when we go out to conduct rescues.

‘No attempt has been made to reassure members of the CRS that the new system will be safe – possibly either because MCA management know that it will not, or because they have doubts and that admitting those doubts will be seen as a weakness. For whatever reason, the silence from Southampton is deafening and further proof of how the CRS is viewed by MCA management.

‘Like most CROs, I suspect, I have limits in what I am prepared to do for the Coastguard. I refuse to put my family at risk and so, should I feel that the risks become unacceptable, I will have no hesitation in resigning.

‘Being a member of a Coastguard rescue team is something I used to find extremely rewarding and I took great pride in my membership of the organisation. Recently, however, I find myself questioning how I am being treated; my attendance at training and incidents has decreased and even routine dealings with my full-time colleagues has become strained.

‘I know from discussions at training that I am not alone in feeling like this and I suspect several other team members are also thinking about leaving.’

The overall situation in the coastguard service has to raise questions about both the concept and the management of this radical revision of the maritime rescue and incident coordination service.

We have heard it described in a telling phrase that is worth borrowing: ‘It’s like taking the jack away before putting the wheel back on the car.’

Note: We have asked the MCA to confirm or correct that the MRCC staffing tables we have received and have copied to them are current to February 2013; and we have asked for a note of any changes to those figures since the period covered by the the tables. We have also lodged an FOI at the Department for Transport for the Belfast MRCC watch manning figures for 2013 to now.





This damning view of the Coastguard closure plan has been submitted by a Coastguard rescue officer. So great is their concern for safety and the future of HM Coastguard they are considering resigning.

Those MCA bosses, inept Government Ministers and blinkered MP’s who have been quick to say that “there will be no change to the front line services” need to open their eyes and shut their mouths because this is the REALITY on the coast…

“For the first time since joining the Coastguard service I am seriously considering leaving the service. Morale in the CRS is the lowest I can remember, with the widely-held view that MCA management neither care about us nor see a need to communicate with us about the future direction of the Coastguard. 

I have yet to hear a convincing explanation of how the Future Coastguard programme will work and how it will affect the CRS. I don’t know who will call me out, manage me at incidents or be responsible for my safety. All I hear is vague platitudes about the service being ‘improved’ and ‘enhanced’, although I cannot see how this can happen with fewer stations, fewer full-time Coastguards and a distinct possibility that we will be managed by people who have never set foot in our area, let alone know our patch.

It is the safety element that is causing me the greatest concern. At present, if I am called out to conduct a search in the early hours, I know I have colleagues watching over me who know me and my team-mates and who know the area. If I ask for backup, they will usually provide it in the knowledge that I am the man on the ground and I know what is happening. The thought of a Coastguard in Fareham, Belfast, Scotland or anywhere else being responsible for my safety while also running several other incidents spread over a wide area frankly terrifies me. I have heard from CROs in other areas who are already experiencing problems (and outright hostility in some cases) from having to deal with new management teams who are often under immense pressure themselves in making a new, untried system work.

I am only too aware of the numbers of full-time Coastguard staff who are leaving the service and am concerned that it will be the part-time staff like me that will be left to pick up the pieces when things go wrong. Increased loss of life, in my view, is inevitable and I am genuinely concerned that my team-mates and I will be less safe when we go out to conduct rescues. No attempt has been made to reassure members of the CRS that the new system will be safe – possibly either because MCA management know that it will not, or because they have doubts and that admitting those doubts will be seen as a weakness. For whatever reason, the silence from Southampton is deafening and further proof of how the CRS is viewed by MCA management. 

Like most CROs, I suspect, I have limits in what I am prepared to do for the Coastguard. I refuse to put my family at risk and so, should I feel that the risks become unacceptable, I will have no hesitation in resigning. Being a member of a Coastguard rescue team is something I used to find extremely rewarding and I took great pride in my membership of the organisation. Recently, however, I find myself questioning how I am being treated; my attendance at training and incidents has decreased and even routine dealings with my full-time colleagues at the MRCC has become strained. I know from discussions at training that I am not alone in feeling like this and I suspect several other team members are also thinking about leaving. 

It would appear that the number of full-time Coastguards leaving the service has taken MCA management by surprise. It may well be that the next surprise will be the number of CROs that leave and, once free of the gagging order imposed by Spring Place, many will almost certainly air their feelings on social media and in the press. Should the unthinkable happen and a CRO or lifeboat crewman be killed on a rescue, there will be no shortage of ‘volunteers’ willing to speak out and criticise the system that allowed it to happen. Local MPs, members of the Cabinet and senior figures within the MCA should all be aware that they face being ‘named and shamed’ should this happen”.



4th March 2013.  Yarmouth Coastguard cease to provide 24hr cover

Yarmouth Coastguard cease to provide 24hr cover for East Anglia as of today after being forced to do so ahead of their full closure by the Government and MCA. From tonight, Humber Coastguard will assume additional responsibility for the East Anglian coast even though they have recently been experiencing a series of communication outages and staff do not have intimate knowledge of that area.

The MCA and DfT will say in mitigation that Yarmouth Coastguard has been paired with Humber Coastguard for years and whilst this statement is true it does not however reflect the reality that the pairing was in fact a formal statute rather than a reality of operational capability. A leaked MCA document proves this to be the case.

The risks to coast users will increase as from tonight but the MCA bosses and Ministers are keeping everything crossed that it will work out. This is the reality of their golden vision for a Coastguard service “fit for the 21st century”

Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said he had never opposed the “modernisation” as it was put forward by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) – the people with expertise in the service.

“It’s a real shame that we’re losing those jobs, though they have been offered relocation,” he added.

“Yarmouth coastguard has been there for a long time but it’s the MCA that have made the recommendation and when they’re saying this is what we need, it’s very difficult for any of us to say ‘you the coastguard have got this wrong’.”

Well we have news for Mr Lewis. The MCA are wrong and so is Brandon Lewis. He has repeatedly ignored opportunities to establish the facts about this issue despite very regular warnings. We also question why he is  suddenly “blaming” the MCA.  Is he suddenly attempting to absolve the Government and successive shipping Ministers of any blame?


PRESS RELEASE from the office of Katy Clark MP


Cuts to coastguard centres putting west coast maritime safety at risk

Coastguard services covering the west coast of Scotland are being staffed at dangerously low levels according to information revealed by the Government. Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre Belfast (MRCC Belfast), which recently took over responsibility for co-ordinating rescue services for the west coast of Scotland following the closure of Greenock based MRCC Clyde in December 2012, was staffed at below risk-assessed levels on 40 shifts in December 2012 and on 43 shifts in January this year. The information was provided in response to a Parliamentary Question from Labour MP Katy Clark whose North Ayrshire and Arran constituency covers a stretch of the West of Scotland’s coast. Fears were raised prior to the closure of MRCC Clyde that insufficient safeguards had been put in place to ensure that maritime safety would not be compromised once it stopped operating. In particular there was significant concern about the loss of local knowledge and a gap in provision prior to the new Maritime Operations Centre in Fareham becoming operational sometime during 2013/14.


Speaking on the subject Ms. Clark said “These alarming figures underline the extent to which the closure of MRCC Clyde has compromised maritime safety along the West Coast of Scotland. The Government has repeatedly failed to provide satisfactory answers to genuine safety concerns regarding the closure of the Greenock station and the revelation that MRCC Belfast is now being staffed at dangerously low levels will do nothing to allay people’s fears. Unfortunately I now believe it is likely that lives are being put at risk by the closure of MRCC Clyde and the failure to staff MRCC Belfast appropriately.”


“The Government now needs to act as a matter of urgency and put in place swift measures to alleviate the situation and ensure that safety is not jeopardised further by its reckless and poorly thought out closure programme.”


Safety warning as coastguard staffing plummets

1 March 2013

Lives will be lost if coastguard stations continue to lose experienced staff, PCS warns.

The government is failing to retain staff after its flawed decision to close half the coastguard stations in the UK.

Already UK stations are almost 90 watchkeepers down and at least one station faces a summer with half as many staff as it should have, making safe 24 hour cover impossible.

Liverpool is expected to have lost 11 of its 22 watchkeeping staff by the summer months and other stations will have severe shortages.

The government has faced stinging criticism over its plans from the transport select committee and had pledged that no station would close before the new national operations centre was up and running.

Two stations, Clyde and Forth in Scotland, have already closed, Yarmouth is due to close on Monday (4 March) and others could be forced to before the service switches over to a national network.

Even in stations remaining open, disillusioned staff who can not easily be replaced are leaving.

The union says the Maritime and Coastguard Agency needs to put urgent measures in place to address the staffing crisis, including honouring its promises on upgrading jobs to improve pay.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We and others have warned time and again that these closures would put lives at risk. The government must act immediately to address this dangerous decline.”

05.02.13 – Campaign update

Yesterday two of our campaign team travelled to Westminster for separate meetings with the Shadow Sec State for Transport; Maria Eagle MP, Angus MacNeil MP and the PCS Union.Despite two full Transport Select Committee inquires we remain gravely concerned that the MCA and Government have begun the station closure programme without any credible or safe alternative plan being in place.Risk assessments have not been carried out into individual station closures and the assessment which was hastily cobbled together in 2011 is without any foundation whatsoever.One important feature of this campaign is education. MP’s are not machines and need to have the concerns of the public brought before them. Both Maria Eagle MP and Angus MacNeil MP (amongst others) have always been willing to address the legitimate concerns of the campaign team and yesterday’s meetings underlined this.The meeting with the PCS was useful because the national Coastguard SOS campaign brings a different angle and perception of the key issues from a so called “grassroots” level.Yesterday we met with people who are on the same side as us but we will shortly meet with the MCA who have also offered us a meeting. The campaign team know that we must continue to stand up and be counted and we do this because we believe that the issue of public and commercial safety is of far greater importance than that of any individuals who wish to have their ego’s inflated.We know that the MCA have been forced to make austerity cuts but the plans that they have presented to the Government for implementation are wrong and unworkable. This is further compounded by succesive transport Monisters who appear to be ignorant of the importance of HM Coastguard. It has become our job to continue to highlight the flaws in the closure plan and to hold those responsible for it to account.There are many things wrong with the way that the MCA is run and Sir Alan Massey should have swept a brush through the agency when he took it over in order to rid it once and for all of those who (if they stay) will destroy HM Coastguard.Coastguard officers deserve better – the public deserves better and tax payers deserve better. We will continue to offer our support to every coastal community affected by these plans for as long as it takes for the Prime Minister to realise that this clsore plan remains seriously flawed and those responsible are held accountable.

Coastguard campaigners back MP’s “overworked” claim

By Eric Baxter - Greenock Telegraph

THE National Coastguard SOS Campaign is backing Inverclyde’s MP over the
latest row surrounding the closure of the Greenock HQ.

Iain McKenzie revealed this week he had been told a senior coastguard
officer in Belfast had quit because of ‘dangerous overwork’ following
last month’s transfer of operations from Clyde.

The claim was denied by management at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency
(MCA), who said the officer had left for ‘personal reasons’.

But SOS Campaign co-ordinator Dennis O’Connor today said the officer’s
departure had also come to their attention.

Mr O’Connor said: “We’re delighted Iain McKenzie has moved quickly to
demand that the secretary of state for transport, Patrick McLoughlin,
should appear before the Scottish Affairs Select Committee.

“We would also urge the committee to once again call shipping minister
Stephen Hammond and coastguard chief Sir Alan Massey to provide evidence
that the closure programme is indeed as safe as they are saying.

“As yet, neither have offered any proof whatsoever to back up their

Mr O’Connor also described the loss of key personnel as a ‘major setback
for the MCA’.

He added: “The MCA are unlikely to admit any officer has left for
anything other than ‘personal reasons’, but the fact that the service is
dangerously understaffed strongly suggests there are a great deal of
senior officers and watchkeepers who are disenfranchised with it.

“The service is haemorrhaging staff and stations like Clyde are still
being closed despite categorical assurances that no stations would shut
before the robustness of the centralised call centre system was
demonstrated. The closure of Forth and Clyde has already taken place
without any such testing having been done, because the much-heralded
replacement system simply does not exist.”

The campaigner also called on the UK Government to do a u-turn and
reopen the Greenock station immediately.

He said: “We once again call upon the UK Government to abolish station
closure plans immediately and reinstate the coastguard rescue
coordination centres at Forth and on the Clyde.”

Coastguard bosses have insisted that seafarers will be safer than ever
following the transfer


    “Lifeboat success could be compromised by Coastguard Cuts”

by Stuart McMillan MSP 29.01.13

Stuart McMillan MSP, (SNP) has highlighted a warning that the RNLI Lifeboat’s success could be seriously compromised by the Westminster system’s cuts to the HM Coastguard service in Scotland.

The RNLI last week announced that 2012 was a record year in Scotland in terms of the number of number of people rescued with volunteer crews going to the aid of 1,055 people. Its previous highest number was 1,026 in 2006.

The success of the Lifeboat is interdependent on success of the Coastguard service, said Dennis O’Connor, National Coastguard SOS Campaign Coordinator. The Coastguard cuts mean a drop in local knowledge which could lead to inadvertently putting the Lifeboat volunteers in danger.

Mr McMillan said;

“This warning must come as a wake-up call to the UK government who have imposed Westminster cuts on Scotland’s waters for the sake of saving a few pounds.

“We now have a ridiculous situation where the West of Scotland is not covered by a local Coastguard station and the Lifeboat volunteers take instruction from Coastguard centres hundreds of miles away. Added to this, it’s been reported that in the last two weeks Rescue Coordination Centre Manager, Richard Newell, of Belfast Coastguard, resigned from his post.

“The Lifeboat volunteers do an invaluable and exceptional job but for them to be being given instructions on emergencies taking place in the intricate and diverse coastline of the west of Scotland from Stornoway or Belfast defies all logic.”

Mr O’Connor said;

“The RNLI do an exceptional job in but the service is in danger due to Scotland suffering from the thick end of the wedge of UK government cuts to HM Coastguard.

“The success of the RNLI is underpinned by the success of the professional service and expert local knowledge of the Coastguard.

“It is fundamentally wrong that the UK government is potentially putting Lifeboat volunteers’ lives in danger by cutting the Coastguard.”

28.01.13 Greenock Telegraph: Coastguard denies quit claim

By Eric Baxter

COASTGUARD chiefs today denied allegations a top officer in Belfast had
quit in protest after the station took over River Clyde rescues from

Claims emerged last week that a top official had resigned because of
‘dangerous overwork’ following last month’s transfer of operations.

Inverclyde MP Iain McKenzie is now calling for urgent talks about the
safety of Coastguard services covering the Clyde area and has demanded
that UK transport minister Patrick McLoughlin MP appear urgently before
the Scottish Affairs Select Committee.

But coastguard bosses have flatly denied the quit claims.

Management at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said they had spoken to
the officer, who insisted he had left for ‘personal reasons’.

A spokeswoman said: “He said very strongly that his decision to leave
was nothing to do with the transfer of responsibilities from Greenock to

The UK Government sparked anger when it pushed through the closure of
Greenock’s coastguard station and transfer of operations to Belfast
despite months of pressure by campaigners, who feared the controversial
move would create safety problems.

MP Mr McKenzie said: “The transition hasn’t gone as smoothly as the
government had promised.”

The MP said he was demanding ‘urgent answers’ from the government.

Mr McKenzie added: “The public must have confidence in coastguard
services, and to date it would seem that confidence is ebbing and
flowing like the tide between ourselves and Belfast.”

Britain’s top coastguard officer, Sir Alan Massey, insisted during a
visit to Greenock last month that seafarers would be safer than ever
following the transfer to Belfast.


25.01.13 National Coastguard SOS Campaign Group Press Release


Following recent announcements that the Coastguard maritime rescue coordination centre at Yarmouth is to be downgraded to operational throughout daylight hours only, and the publishing of RNLI call out figures for the past year, campaigners who oppose the closure of UK stations have renewed calls for Government plans to be scrapped before a tragedy occurs.Announcing the downgrading of the Yarmouth station, the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) admit that this has been forced because of high numbers of staff leaving the service ahead of the formal closure of station on 1st May. The downgrading of the station means that Humber Coastguard will assume responsibility for the stretch of coastline from the Scottish / English border to Southwold during night times. Campaigners argue that the safety of coast users including Volunteer RNLI crews and Coastguard rescue officers is being put at risk because of mismanagement of the closure plans by successive Transport Ministers and Senior MCA bosses. Speaking on behalf of the National Coastguard SOS Campaign group, Dennis O’Connor said “we have repeatedly warned of the dangers of the Coastguard service haemorrhaging experienced staff. This move by the MCA and Department for Transport is being made out of desperation because they have failed to prove to staff that the future Coastguard plan is safe and workable and clear indications are that the MCA will continue to lose staff at an alarming rate which will impact on the ability of HM Coastguard to be able to react to distress calls in an effective and timely manner.
“The RNLI have recently published record call out figures and are to be congratulated and admired for their commitment to sea safety, it is however important that the public are reminded that for each call that the RNLI respond to, the actual tasking and coordination of the incident is carried out by HM Coastguard from the maritime rescue coordination centres around the UK coast. The closure of these stations will result in the loss of essential local knowledge and we could face an unthinkable scenario where the lives of RNLI crews and Coastguard rescue teams are put in danger as a result of mistakes made by a remote centralised call centre ”  In December the Transport Select Committee (TSC) published their long awaited report into a second inquiry relating to the government’s station closure plan. The report highlighted serious concerns about the number of staff leaving the service and criticised the MCA and successive Transport Ministers for breeding concern amongst officers. Mr O’Connor said that there is no evidence to suggest that either the Government or the MCA have addressed the concerns of the TSC and instead have set course to speed up the station closure process despite overwhelming opposition from maritime industry experts”. “The UK Shipping Minister; Stephen Hammond MP has failed to get to grips with his portfolio and this has compounded the growing problem of officers leaving. Quite simply, they have no faith in the safety of future operations once coordination of incidents is passed to a centralised UK call centre”Yarmouth Coastguard station is the third station to be closed in just 29 weeks under Government plans and will be followed by the closure of stations at Brixham and Portland later this year. Further stations in England and Wales are scheduled to close next year. Two stations in Scotland have already closed and campaigners insist that it is too early to assume that the safety of coast users has not been put at risk. Dennis O’Connor said “we believe that the Government have significantly increased the risk to those using the Scottish coast by the closure of the two stations there. Scotland has been used as a test bed for the closure programme and it is unacceptable that risks should have been taken by the closure of two Scottish stations in favour of an untested alternative plan”. The campaign group have challenged Sir Alan Massey, CEO of the Maritime Coastguard Agency and the UK Shipping Minister to provide proof that the closure of UK Coastguard rescue coordination centres is a safe way to proceed but the Shipping Minister has refused several attempts by the group to meet and neither he nor Sir Alan Massey have provided any evidence which would alter campaigners opinion that the closure programme is nothing other than dangerous.      The centralised call centre is shrouded not only in controversy but also mystery as it emerged earlier this month that the Shipping Minister arranged a media opportunity at the building in Fareham. A very small delegation of media were present but were denied entry into the building and were left outside to await the arrival of the Minister. When Mr Hammond arrived the media delegation were told to limit their questions to just two each and still refused entry to the building. Campaigners say that this suggests that Mr Hammond is ill prepared to deal with his portfolio and question why the media were barred from entering the building. Dennis O’Connor raises the prospect that the building is being hidden from the eyes of the media because it is nowhere near ready and has not been staffed although stations are already being closed despite Government assurances that none would close until the new system had been rigourously tested for robustness.
“Safe and effective changes to the way that HM Coastguard operate would be welcomed by Coastguard officers and campaigners but not at the expense of stations which currently provide a high level of service” argues Mr O’Connor. “Coastguard campaigners have always stated that genuine modernisation plans which would guarantee a stronger and more robust service would be welcomed but despite assurances by the Shipping Minister and Sir Alan Massey that this will be the case, they have failed to provide any evidence to back up their claims”. This says Mr O’Connor is “unacceptable and serves only to underline the growing concern amongst campaigners that the Government have decided which stations will close purely on a political basis and without operational reasoning”.   

Livingston MP, Graeme Morrice has recently asked the following Parliamentary Questions and received (in our view) very repetitive stock standard responses from the UK Shipping Minister, Stephen Hammond MP. The questions are all pertinent yet Mr Hammond continues to avoid answering them. The question from the Coastguard SOS campaign group therefore remains…… he badly briefed or just not interested in this issue of national importance?


Q. What the age profile and length of service is of coastguards at each Maritime Rescue Co-ordination centre?

A. The age profile and length of service for coastguards, for each Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, is shown

Please click on link to view: Maritime and coastguard agency KMH


Q. If he will undertake an independent assessment of steps required to reduce any risk to the safety of remaining regular coastguards, those working in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency headquarters and volunteers?

A. An independent assessment is not required. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency keeps risks to the safety of its staff and volunteers under constant review, and take remedial and mitigating actions as necessary.


Q. What steps is he taking to address any change in the operational capability of coastguards in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency headquarters and volunteers as a result of a reduction in the number of experienced officers?

A. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency keeps the operational capability of all its staff and volunteers under constant review, taking account of planned changes as set out in the Blueprint which the Government published in November 2011.


Q. What steps is he taking to set out a strategy for the training and remuneration of staff in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency?

A. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is committed to developing and rewarding its staff in line with the strategy and principles as set out in the Civil Service Reform Plan that was published in June 2012.


Q. What steps he has taken to ensure an independent safety risk assessment is carried out into the closure of UK coastguard rescue co-ordination centres?

A. Safety is this Government’s top priority. Therefore rigorous and robust risk and impact assessments have been prepared and published on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s website ( to support the decisions we have taken.


Q. What recent assessment he has made of the contribution of skilled staff within a) the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and b) Maritime Rescue Co-ordination centres in tacking incidents?

A. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency keeps the operational capability of all its staff and volunteers under constant review, taking account of planned changes as set out in the Blueprint which the Government published in November 2011. This includes staff within the Agency’s Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres.



The UK Government  closed the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre at Clyde on 18th December 2012

18.12.12 – National Coastguard SOS Campaign Press Release

Campaigners anger at continued Coastguard centre closures.

Campaigners have challenged the Chief Executive of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) to produce evidence to support his claims that lives will not be put at risk as a result of Government plans to close Coastguard rescue coordination centres.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland this morning, Dennis O’Connor from the National Coastguard SOS Campaign Group said that statements made by the MCA’s Sir Alan Massey are misleading. “Sir Alan is wrong to make these statements because until the replacement system of operation is in place he does not have the proof that lives will not be risked by the closure plans”.

The centralised call centre in Fareham which the Government want to replace 50% of UK Coastguard stations will not be operational until 2015 according to a recent press release by the MCA (although even this contrasts with Sir Alan who has stated that 2014 is the intended operational date). Campaigners insist that no assurances on safety should be given my Sir Alan or the UK Shipping Minister; Stephen Hammond MP until the new system has been fully trialled and tested. “It’s a misguided smokescreen designed as damage limitation” said Mr O’Connor.

Earlier this month the Transport Select Committee published the report from their second inquiry into the plans to close stations and Sir Alan Massey and Stephen Hammond MP were criticised for poor management of the plans.

Launching the review or reforms across the coastguard, Louise Ellman MP, Chair of Transport Committee said, ” The manner in which changes are being imposed has already damaged the service” and “the government must rule out further closures and ensure that its reforms do not undermine safety”

Scotland has had two stations close despite fully tested replacement system not being in place yet no further stations have done so elsewhere in the UK. In time, other closures at Swansea, Liverpool, Brixham, Yarmouth, Portland and Thames will follow but the campaign group insist that the Scottish Government should be asking urgent questions about why the waters around Scotland have been singled out as a test bed for these plans.

The Closure of Clyde is one of the most controversial because of the nature of the waters that it protected and the variation in challenges posed by users of the West coast. Dennis O’Connor claims that the closure of the station proves that “the UK Government are not interested in addressing the genuine concerns and informed that have been raised and instead are intent on pushing through a blinkered policy of change”.

“The Minister has ignored legitimate concerns of Select Committees and advice from maritime experts, and so it is impossible for us not to see his continued stance as hostile. He is undermining the democratic process and in doing so rendering the role and responsibility of those Committee’s as worthless”.

Today HM Coastguard has been made less resilient through the actions of the UK Government and it will remain the case until the MCA and Department for Transport can prove beyond doubt that safety is genuinely their number one priority. This may only be achieved by publishing the details in full of how they intend to reasonably achieve their vision. Perhaps then we may have clarity on this sorry saga for the first time.



SNP MSP Stuart McMillan has accused the UK government for creating an ‘unforgiveable threat’ to the users of Scotland’s busiest water area on the day that Clyde Coastguard shuts and hands responsibility over to Belfast and Stornoway stations.

Mr McMillan – who has campaigned tirelessly to save Clyde Coastguard – said:

“This is totally shameful. The UK government are prioritising saving money ahead of saving lives. The Tory Lib Dem philosophy of putting profit over people represents an unforgivable threat to the area and everyone who uses the Firth of Clyde.

“The Firth of Clyde is one of the busiest and strategically most important waterways in the UK.

“It is a part of Scotland that is loved by tourists and locals and has some of the best sailing waters in the world. Over 2.5million people travel on passenger ferry journeys every year.

“The river remains an important corridor for trading vessels and fishing boats alike. And until such time as we achieve an independent Scotland and get rid of Trident, the Clyde also houses the UK’s nuclear weapons.

“The UK government clearly think it’s a good idea to have no coastguard service located in an area with such a high concentration of activity. Everyone else knows it deeply wrong.

“To do away with a committed and efficient coastguard service with expert local knowledge leaves a void that could not be filled by already stretched centres in Belfast and Stornoway, excellent though these facilities are.”


Transport Minister’s bullish response to Committee’s recommendations causes anger amongst campaigners

In response to the damning report by the Transport Select Committee which once again leaves the Government’s Coastguard station closure plan in tatters, Transport Minister Stephen Hammond has responded with the following statement:

“Our reforms to modernise the coastguard will deliver a more resilient and effective rescue system with faster response times, benefiting all parts of the UK.

The issues raised in the report have been addressed throughout the two consultations and in our evidence to the select committee.

“We have been frank and open in our responses on these and will continue to be so.

“We also have some concerns that the committee has given too much weight to anecdotal evidence and too little to the evidential testimony of the MCA [Maritime and Coastguard Agency] and the DfT [Department for Transport].”


Well Mr Hammond, we have news for you and we are putting in in black and white so that there is no ambiguity: YOU ARE WRONG!

If you speak for the Government then this statement proves that it is a non democratic and blinkered Government.

You have been in the job only a very short while and seem content to continue to trot out the well worn lines of the former Shipping Minister who as history shows, is as guilty of mis-management of these closure plans as you are.

You must understand that you are an elected MP and on this issue you are failing miserably to install any confidence whatsoever in either the DfT or the MCA who are supposed to be answerable to you.

Just like these plans, the MCA is an utter mess and is seriously lacking credibility after receiving another mauling at the hands of the Transport Select Committee. At this rate we would ot be surprised to learn that non operational MCA staff are also preparing to leave in droves because the management is focused on the wrong thing when they should be investing energy into keeping experienced Coastguard officers.

The sheer fact that successive DfT Ministers and MCA bosses are ignoring the advice and input of staff is incredible and you as UK Shipping Minister must accept responsibility for this. Your department does not have the respect of Coastguards or the public because this process is far from transparent. If it was then how would the TSC be able to claim that Coastguard officers themselves do not know what’s happening.

Your final comment in which you state We also have some concerns that “the committee has given too much weight to anecdotal evidence and too little to the evidential testimony of the MCA [Maritime and Coastguard Agency] and the DfT [Department for Transport]” is, we believe a true reflection of ignorance to the legitimate concerns that have been raised and in making that comment you have served only to undermine the credibility of maritime experts.

Coastguard campaigners delight as Government are told “rule out further closures and ensure that its reforms do not undermine safety”

National Coastguard SOS Campaigners say it’s too soon for Champagne corks to be popped but are delighted that the influential Transport Select Committee (TSC) has told the Government today that they must “rule out further closures and ensure that its reforms do not undermine safety”. Responding to the publishing of a TSC report into Government plans to axe UK Coastguard rescue coordination centres at Brixham, Liverpool, Yarmouth, Clyde, Swansea, Portland and Thames the group say that the document  vindicates their continued opposition to the plan.

Launching the review of reforms across the Coastguard, Louise Ellman MP, Chair of the Transport Committee said “ the manner in which changes are being imposed has already damaged the service and it’s of great concern that the vacancy rate for skilled staff has doubled since 2010”.  The Coastguard campaign group welcome the strongly worded document. We have been campaigning for two years against these plans which will increase risks to those who use the UK coast for commercial or leisure purposes and are delighted that the TSC recognise that concerns about the implementation and management of the closure plan falls far below what could be regarded as an acceptable standard.

We have insisted that the closure plan should be transparent and credible and it is evident from the report that the TSC remain greatly concerned about the ambiguity of the plans, this is wholly unacceptable and indicates that the plan has been thrown together without sufficient thought towards safety, operational capability or to implementation

The Committee states that “The MCA’s stance in respect of the local knowledge which coastguards in co-ordination centres must have is also confusing and contradictory.  In a response that the Committee described as “complacent and lacking in detail”,  Sir Alan Massey, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, suggested that local knowledge is not a requirement. The MCA needs to set out its strategy for staff training and articulate its vision of why coastguards in MRCCs need to gain and retain local knowledge. MCA management must schedule and remunerate staff to pursue this expertise, not leave them to organise themselves when they are off duty.”

The campaign group insist that the loss of essential local knowledge as a result of station closures remains one of the campaigns most important issues. Little has been done to adequately address the obvious damage to operational capability that would occur with the drain of experienced officers. They are leaving the service and with them years of experience and local knowledge is also disappearing. Despite being warned of this by Coastguard officers, maritime stakeholders and Coastguard campaigners, the importance of this seems to have escaped successive Shipping Ministers and senior MCA officials.

The committee also calls for the Government to provide statistics on the age profile and length of service of coastguards at each MRCC and to set out its strategy for retaining experienced coastguards, particularly in terms of recruitment to positions based at the MOC.  We underline the importance of this statement by explaining that there is nothing to suggest that the MCA have addressed the significant numbers of staff leaving the service or the apparent lack of interest in any taking up positions at the MOC. Even if the MCA were to be successful in recruiting new staff to remaining stations and to the MOC (and this is unlikely under the current climate of uncertainty that they have managed to foster), it is likely that this will come at a significant financial cost and would serve only to undermine the operational experience and quality of Coastguard officers at those centres.

Despite the damning report, the Coastguard SOS campaign is not over until a formal announcement is made by Ministers. We believe that this should happen immediately but our immediate fears are with the staff of Clyde Coastguard which has effectively been closed for the past month although the official closure date remains 18th December. We echo the recommendations of the Committee and call upon the Prime Minister to stop the closure plan with immediate effect and return full operational status to Clyde Coastguard so that their officers may resume their role of ensuring safety on the West coast of Scotland.

Read the full report here:


10.12.12 – Two years on and the fight continues

Two years ago today the UK Government began the systematic dismantling of the HM Coastguard rescue coordination centre structure. Their (current) plan is to close eight centres around the UK coast and replace them with a centralised call centre option.Coastguard officers, maritime stakeholders and campaigners have warned of the dangers of such a move but Government Ministers and the MCA have ploughed on regardless of what the experts have said and have already closed Forth Coastguard on the Scottish East coast. Clyde coastguard on the West coast of Scotland has in effect already been closed for a month ahead of it’s “formal” closure date of December 18th. Next on the axe list is Yarmouth Coastguard which is planned for closure on 1st May 2013.

The influencial Transport Select Committee have conducted two inquiries into the closure plans and the second report will be published at 00.01 hrs tomorrow (11.12.12).

Two years on we are still challenging the closure plans and we will continue to do so until Government Ministers and MCA bosses accept that with position comes responsibility – We will not idly sit back and watch you increase the dangers to those who use the UK coast for commercial or leisure purposes. You are overseeing a flawed process and one that is dangerous and un-workable. Stop this now for the sake of safety.

Transport Select Committee report ‘will shape the future of HM Coastguard’
Posted on by For Argyll newsroom

The Transport Select Committee has announced that the report from its unusual second inquiry into matters relating to HM coastguard reorganisation will be published on Tuesday 11th December.

The report is concerned with two major issues:

  • the plan to withdraw the Emergency Towing Vessels from the sea areas off the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland in particular, now becoming a major focus for new oil and gas exploration;
  • the closure of UK Coastguard rescue coordination centres – with Forth closed at the end of September, Clyde already degraded and due to close formally on 18th December, and Swansea, Portland, Liverpool, Brixham, Thames and Yarmouth ticketed for the slipway – with their sea areas added to the responsibilities of other existing stations.

In the two years following the announcement on 10th December 2010 that the Government intended to close UK Coastguard rescue coordination centres, the National Coastguard SOS Campaign Group have continued to highlight the concerns of Coastguard Officers, mariners and the public.

The publishing of the inquiry report by the Transport Select Committee follows a second inquiry in-which the concerns regarding the safety and robustness of the closure programme were evident.

The National Campaign SOS campaign group is understandably hopeful that the Committee has taken on board the legitimate concerns of maritime safety stakeholders.

The campaign hopes that the Transport Select Committee has recognised that the contents of its report will,  by consent or challenge, effectively ‘shape the future of HM Coastguard’.

We expect a full statement from the Coastguard SOS group to follow the publication of the report next Tuesday.

Note: Members of the Transport Select Committee are: Mrs Louise Ellman (Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool Riverside) (Chair); Steve Baker (Conservative, Wycombe); Jim Dobbin (Labour/Co-operative, Heywood and Middleton); Julie Hilling (Labour, Bolton West); Kwasi Kwarteng (Conservative, Spelthorne); Mr John Leech (Liberal Democrat, Manchester Withington); Karen Lumley (Conservative, Redditch); Karl McCartney (Conservative, Lincoln); Lucy Powell (Manchester Central); Iain Stewart (Conservative, Milton Keynes South); Graham Stringer (Labour, Blackley and Broughton).

McMillan Writes to UK Government Over Loch Fyne Tragedy

 Stuart McMillan MSP (SNP, West Scotland) has today written to the UK Government Transport Secretary, Rt Hon Patrick McLaughlin MP, raising questions around the coastguard response to the recent tragedy at Loch Fyne.

Previously this area would have been covered by Clyde Coastguard but with operational services having been passed over to Belfast Coastguard Station last week this was one of the first tests of the new set-up. The Clyde Coastguard has been the victim of UK Government cuts to the Coastguard services across Scotland and elsewhere across the UK, despite a long and hard fought campaign against these cuts.

Concerns have been raised about whether Belfast was adequately equipped to deal with this tragedy and whether more could have been done if Clyde Coastguard had remained open.

Mr McMillan said:

“First and foremost I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased. This was a tragic accident and the family must remain in our thoughts throughout.

 “This was an early test of the readiness and suitability of the Belfast station taking over the duties of Clyde Coastguard. I have read various reports and question whether this incident could have been better dealt with if Clyde had remained open.

 “I have said from the start of the Save the MRCC Clyde campaign that safety must come first, not cost. There is a great wealth of local knowledge that will be lost by the closure of Clyde Coastguard. This could impact greatly upon response times and ultimately end up with tragic consequences.

 “I have written to the Patrick McLaughlin MP, the UK Transport Secretary as I believe it was important to highlight this most recent incident to the UK Government and raise questions with him. The highest standards from the workforce in Belfast will have remained, of that I am sure. They have however been placed in an invidious position as a result of the decisions taken by the UK Government.

 “I believe the UK Government has made a massive error in closing Clyde Coastguard and one that could have long lasting consequences for water users in the west of Scotland. I will continue to campaign for safety and security in our waters and I hope the UK Government come to a common sense conclusion and u-turn on this decision, just as they have done on other matters.”

26.11.12 – National Coastguard SOS Campaign Group statement

The circumstances surrounding the tragic death of a young kayaker on Sunday has led us who oppose the closure of maritime rescue coordination centres to renew calls for the Secretary of State for Transport; Patrick McLoughlin MP to stop the closure programme until the circumstances of the accident have been fully investigated.

Although the incident took place on Loch Fyne in Argyll, Scotland, the coordination of rescue resources was carried out by Coastguards at Belfast who recently assumed responsibility for the West of Scotland coastline since the effective closure of Clyde Coastguard less than two weeks ago.

We have always argued that the loss of vital local knowledge would lead to delays in the tasking of SAR resources and after receiving information from a Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) source, we believe that this may have occurred on the weekend.

We were made aware of concerns of possible delays in tasking the rescue helicopter and nearby SAR / lifeboat resources and the information does in fact point to this. It raises serious questions about operational procedures and coordination capabilities now that the Government have effectively closed Clyde Coastguard and we believe that the Secretary of State for Transport should provide an explanation of whether or not there would have been any operational difference had Clyde been available to coordinate an incident of this sort within their area of responsibility.

Under plans set out by the Government, half of the UK’s maritime rescue coordination centres (MRCC’s) will close to be replaced by a centralised call centre in Hampshire. Those stations facing the axe are Liverpool, Brixham, Yarmouth, Swansea, Thames and Portland. Forth Coastguard was closed in September and was followed by Clyde being relieved of operational duty two weeks ago ahead of it’s final closure date of December 18th.

With concerns mounting so early into the closure programme it is apparent that the indecent haste that has been displayed by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and DfT to close stations may have resulted in errors being made which may possibly have resulted in a delay in tasking SAR resources. Therefore we feel there are sufficient grounds to ask the Secretary of State for Transport to cease the closure the station closure plan immediately pending the publication of the Sheriff’s official report into the incident where this young man perished. Further to this, we call upon him to reinstate the Coastguard centres at Clyde and Forth with immediate effect so that proper cover may be maintained.

The closure programme will affect coastal communities all over the UK and any plans which affect the safety of coast users must be fully risk assessed for operational practicality. The decision to close stations has not been based upon operational reasoning and so the plan is without any credibility whatsoever.

This is terrible time for the family of the young man who died and for the friends who were there with him when the accident occurred. Our thoughts are with them all at this time.

Our fears about delays in response times are understandable given that Government Ministers have failed to present any evidence to suggest otherwise therefore it is important that the Minister responsible for UK maritime safety initiates an inquiry so that no questions remain unanswered.

Clyde Coastguard effectively closed as Government attempts to rush through closure programme fails immediately


Posted on November 16, 2012 by For Argyll  newsroom




The National Coastguard SOS campaign has let us know that, effective as of this evening, Clyde Coastguard will to all intents and purposes be closed, with Belfast and Stornoway taking responsibility for the area.

Details contained in a leaked Maritime & Coastguard Agency document confirm this to be the case.

It states: ‘Clyde closes on 18th December 2012. However the work to complete the aerial transfers to MRCC Belfast and MRCC Stornoway is on schedule to complete on Friday of this week and the intention is to hand control of the aerials to Belfast and Stornoway on Friday evening. This will happen at the Clyde watch changeover time (2000UTC). By this time the 999 calls will have been diverted by postcode to Belfast or Stornoway as appropriate and the Clyde routine calls will have been diverted to Belfast’.

The document goes on to say that: ‘the watch-keepers remaining at MRCC Clyde until the 18th December will from Friday evening be working in support of Belfast and Stornoway and will shadow incidents and monitor traffic offering advice and guidance to colleagues at Belfast and Stornoway as appropriate’.

It also states that only three staff will be on watch during the period 16th November – 18th December.

Dennis O’Connor for the National Coastguard SOS Campaign group, says: ‘this effectively means that Clyde will cease to exist operationally from tonight.

‘This move by the MCA is a further direct challenge to the Transport Select Committee who recently voiced serious concerns that the closure programme had already begun in September with the closure of Forth Coastguard despite assurances that the replacement system of operation would be fully tested before any closures took place.

‘This further development shows that there is an apparent desire by some to rush through the closure plan and we urge Members of Parliament to ask the Secretary of State for Transport to investigate the tactics that are being employed by his departments’.

We have also been told that Belfast Coastguard took over the Clyde Coastguard aerials/ and telephone system last night and suffered a complete radio communication and 999 facility failure.

This meant that effectively Belfast were blind both to Clyde’s area of responsibility and that of their own.

It was left to Liverpool Coastguard to maintain radio communications for the whole of the Irish Sea and beyond whilst the fault persisted, which meant that Belfast had no means whatsoever to communicate with anyone, public, merchant vessels or Emergency Service colleagues.

The fault persisted for around two hours which necessitated the handing over of all systems back to Clyde.

Mr O’Connor says, with good reason: ‘this proves that what the MCA and DfT would have us believe is progress is in actual fact an act of utter craziness.

‘They are ill prepared to begin the closure programme and just appear to be hoping that all will be alright on the night.

‘Clearly this is not going to be the case and it’s time that the Shipping Minister, Stephen Hammond MP, became more transparent and admitted the failings and shortcomings in the Government’s plan before in results in tragic consequences’.


Scottish Affairs publishes report on HM Coastguard in Scotland 15 November 2012 .

Loss of local knowledge in Scottish Coastguard closures risks threat to quality of rescue service, says Committee.  The Government must ensure service is maintained at same high standard, and do more to reassure the public.

The Future of HM Coastguard in Scotland. Scottish Affairs Committee.

In a report published today, Thursday 15 November 2012, the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee says it is very worried about the decision to close two of Scotland’s Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres and says Government must do more to explain the rationale for the decision and how it will ensure that the same high standard of service is maintained, with fewer resources.

The Committee is “deeply concerned” that despite an extensive Government consultation, those on the front line felt they had been excluded from the process. It says there has been no satisfactory explanation for the decision to close Clyde and Forth MRCCs, which will leave the central belt of Scotland, where the population is most densely concentrated, without a Coastguard station.
The Committee is particularly concerned at the loss of local knowledge resulting from the closures, saying it seems that for a time at least that there will be a major gap in local knowledge among coastguards in the remaining four MRCCs. It says the Government has “clearly failed” so far to make a convincing case for, or carry public opinion on, the proposed changes to HM Coastguard, and must do more to provide reassurance to seafarers who may need to contact the coastguard in an emergency.
Both the Minister and the Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have assured the Committee that robust and extensive testing was being done before the closure of Clyde Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre to ensure that the stations taking over its area of responsibility would do so seamlessly and continue to provide the level of search and rescue cover which the public has a right to expect. The Committee understands the Government’s argument that the changes are intended to allow HM Coastguard to do more, better, with less, and says it “hopes that this is indeed the case”.
The Committee says Government must keep it updated on the impact of the proposed changes, and provide reassurance after 31 December 2012 that the Scottish coastline is still being served to the same high standard as before.

Members comment
Committee members with parts of their constituencies most directly affected by the changes commented on the report:
Lindsay Roy MP said:

“The report emphasises strongly that local knowledge has often been paramount in ensuring successful search and rescue operations. This was stressed by the local coastguard professionals but it would appear that their advice has gone unheeded. Along with many people in the Fife and Tay estuaries in particular, I remain concerned about the premature closure of Fife Ness station. The estuaries have become increasingly busy over recent years, with growth in commercial shipping and leisure activities, both offshore and along the coastlines.

The coastguard team at Fife Ness , who have now lost their jobs, deserve our heartfelt gratitude for doing such an excellent job over many years, dealing effectively with a whole range of incidents The new arrangements must be as robust as the government claims. I hope that  we will never be in a position when a tragedy will strike, partly because of lack of local knowledge, as they try to do ‘more, better with less’!”

Iain McKenzie MP said:

“The government’s decision to close two of Scotland’s Maritime Rescue co-ordination Centres is wrong and deeply concerning. The Scottish Affairs Select Committee has taken evidence from a number of coastguard experts and the Save our Coastguard campaigners who agree that the decision to centralise and close Coastguard stations will have major safety implications for the west coast of Scotland and will impact on services throughout Scotland. The Scottish Affairs Select Committee is backing the peoples call to reverse this decision. The committee will also request regular progress updates on the changes taking place surrounding the Coastguard and will hold the Government accountable for any safety breaches caused by their decision.”

Alan Reid MP said:

“I am very concerned about the loss of local knowledge when the Clyde coastguard station is closed. It will take time for Belfast and Stornoway to build up a detailed knowledge of Clyde’s area. The commitments given to the Committee by the Minister and the MCA Chief Executive that robust and extensive testing will be carried out before Clyde closes are vitally important. The Government must report back to the Committee on how the MCA are implementing the transfer of Clyde’s responsibilities to Belfast and Stornoway.”


Statement following Transport Select Committee evidence gathering session:

Government plans to modernise the Coastguard service were delivered a further blow this week when the Transport Select Committee met representatives of the PCS and Nautilus Unions before questioning the UK Shipping Minister Stephen Hammond MP and Maritime & Coastguard Agency CEO; Sir Alan Massey.

The Minister insists that the modernisation plans are safe despite public concerns for the plan which will see the closure of nine Coastguard rescue coordination centres at Brixham, Clyde, Liverpool, Yarmouth, Swansea, Thames and Portland.
The National Coastguard SOS Campaign insist that it is clear from that the Transport Select Committee (TSC) have grave concerns about the plan by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Department for Transport (DfT) to close stations.

This is the second such inquiry by the TSC have conducted an inquiry and it was obvious from Ministerial responses that whilst there may well be plenty of determination to close stations, there appears to be very little ability to formulate and implement a plan which is both credible and safe.

Coastguard officers and campaigners have highlighted the chronic shortages of staff affecting each of the current 19 Coastguard centres and remain concerned after the recent closure of the first of the stations to be axed, that of Forth on Scotland’s East coast. This closure is despite assurances from the previous Shipping Minister; Mike Penning MP that no stations would close until the replacement centralised call centre had been fully tested for robustness. The new centralised call centre at Fareham in Hampshire stands empty and un-staffed and is not planned to be operational before 2014 at the earliest. Specific assurances were given to members of the House of Commons and these assurances have not been honoured by the DfT or MCA. Forth Coastguard was closed recently despite the new system being nowhere near operational and coordination duties have passed to Aberdeen Coastguard who are suffering significant staff shortages. Now we have a situation where officers who are not fully aware of vital local knowledge of the additional area of responsibility are having to assume coordination duties somewhat blindly whilst being short staffed and this is wholly unacceptable.

The Transport Select Committee also expressed concerns to the Minister that the station closure programme had begun without the promised testing of the controversial call centre in Fareham.

Following a call by the TSC for fresh evidence of concerns, a total of 28 submissions have been received including evidence from the National Coastguard SOS Campaign group and all are being considered by members of the committee before their announcement on the future of HM Coastguard which is expected in a matter of weeks. Campaigners insist that the closure plans remain dangerously flawed and concerns are mounting at the apparent indifferent attitude of the Shipping Minister and MCA Chief towards public safety and the future of the service. The first announcement of station closure plans was made almost two years ago and despite this, there appears to be no direction by senior MCA staff or Government Ministers and no sense of urgency to address very valid concerns of Coastguard officers and campaigners. Judging from their inability to answer simple questions, the MCA do not appear to know exactly how to implement their plan or if it will be workable and safe. We cannot allow the MCA and DfT to bumble along blindly whilst experienced Coastguard officers are being put under impossible stresses as a result of uncertain futures.

Responding to MP’s questioning, Mr Hammond admitted that since being promoted to his role of UK Shipping Minister, he has not met with any Coastguard officers or visited any stations. Campaigners are outraged by his apparent disregard for the service and question his ability to oversee such important and widespread changes which ultimately will affect the safety of coast users across the Uk.


This is yet more proof of just how inept the MCA and DfT really are:

According to the MCA, the centralised call centre – grandly named the “Maritime Operations Centre” (MOC) at Fareham, will be fully operational in March 2014 (although it was “opened” in July of this year) but the standby MOC at Dover will not be fully operational until August 2014 – a further FIVE MONTHS LATER!

Fred Caygill, a spokesman for the MCA, said: “We plan for this centre to become operational in 2014, followed by a period of parallel running, testing and progressive connection to establish a full national network.”

An interesting statement from Mr Caygill – actually the latest in of a series of misleading statements by the MCA. How can it run “parallel” when the back up MOC is not planned to be operational for a further five months?

Perhaps the MCA can also enlighten us with an answer to this question and what happens if the MOC at Fareham goes down for any length of time in the five months that we will be waiting for the back up MOC to be opened ?

03.10.12 – New Secretary of State cuts his teeth

He’s only been in his new position of Secretary of State for Transport a matter of weeks but Rt.Hon Patrick McLoughlin has stopped the rail franchise farce in its tracks! Today he said “unacceptable mistakes” were made by the Department for Transport (DfT) in the way it managed the franchise bids. On top of that, three Department for Transport officials have been suspended.

WELL DONE! I hear you say and cautiously we echo that sentiment. If, as we are led to believe Mr. McLoughlin has flexed his muscle as a man of principal, and decided to do the unthinkable then good on him. It should also raise hope for everyone connected to the campaign to save Coastguard rescue coordination centres if Mr. McLoghlin is adopting a “no nonsense – do it by the book or bugger off” attitude towards ruling his maverick department. Maybe he’s got the guts that so many of us demanded from his predecessors (both of them) to investigate the flawed Coastguard closure plan and stop it now before someone dies as a result of desk bound idiots having no comprehension of the tragedy that will unfold as a result of the closure programme.
OR, maybe the sheer fact that Sir Richard Branson began legal proceedings was a big enough wake up call to the Government and they knew that Sir Richard would make his legal action stick because the process was hookey. The terms “Jumped before being pushed” and “falling on your sword” spring to mind but will we ever know what has really gone on behind the closed doors of the DfT? The answer  surely lays in Mr. McLaughlin’s next move…….He MUST investigate the process that the DfT and MCA have backed to the hilt. He MUST review every statement made by the former Shipping Minister, Mike Penning MP for accuracy and truth (or otherwise) and he MUST examine every piece of evidence which has been presented to his department by Coastguard officers, industry experts and campaigners who have repeatedly warned of the dangers that will without a shadow of a doubt come in the future.
Go on Mr. McLoghlin – Show your fellow MP’s that it is not big or clever of them to support blinkered, deceitful and idiotic plans which will risk the lives of coast users. STOP THE CLOSURE OF COASTGUARD RESCUE COORDINATION CENTRES NOW.


Forth Coastguard closes today – 28.09.12

Today ignorant and blinkered Government Ministers & MCA chiefs will close Forth Coastguard rescue coordination centre. It’s an absolute disgrace and it will expose coast users to far greater risks than those who support the closure plan will comprehend until people lose their lives.  – Mr Penning you misled the House of Commons and the citizens of the UK. – You promised something that experts told you that you would not be able to deliver. You may have been rewarded for your determination to toe the party line by being given a different portfolio but you will not be forgiven for being instrumental in sabotaging a very proud Coastguard service whilst ignoring common sense arguments against the centralisation of this service. With the closure of Forth Coastguard station and any others that follow the noose will tighten and we will be waiting to make sure that you and the minority of your fellow politicians who supported your dangerous and ill fated scheme are hung out to dry at every opportunity. You promised the country that you were “listening” when all the time you had your own political agenda.
The closures begin in Scotland and unless we stand shoulder to shoulder and demand safer “modernisation” plans, the Government will continue wielding their axe on stations across the UK. Potentially this will have devastating consequences for coastal communities because despite being promised that a more “robust” system would be in place before any stations closed, the Ministers at the Department for Transport together with the incompetent decision makers at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency have failed to provide a system which has been vigorously tested for resilience and robustness. In fact – all we have is an empty call centre in Fareham, Hampshire into which, it is alleged the MCA are trying to install inferior data systems.

The lives of coast users around the UK are being put at risk and this is unacceptable from Government departments. They must stop the closure programme immediately and a full investigation must ensue so that any element of the plan which will lead to increased safety risks for coast users is eradicated or at the very least mitigated.

As a mark of respect to those Coastguard officers who have proudly served the coastal community around the Forth area Coastguard SOS campaigners and supporters are changing their profile pictures for 24 hours to that of the station together with a black ribbon. The country owes those Coastguard officers a great debt that can never be repaid and we not only thank them but salute them for their professionalism and dedication to their duties as guardians of our coast.


Scottish Affairs Committee questions Minister and Coastguard Chief on proposed reforms to the Coastguard in Scotland

On 18.09.12 The Scottish Affairs Committee questioned the recently appointed UK Shipping Minister; Stephen Hammond MP and the CEO of the Maritime ^ Coastguard Agency (MCA); Sir Alan Massey in Westminster over Government plans to close Coastguard rescue coordination centres at Forth and Clyde.

With an on-going Transport Select Committee inquiry currently in progress it was evident MP’s questioning would inevitably seek to clarify points of particular concern whilst remaining mindful of the TSC inquiry. There would be no point, after all in attempting the impossible task of covering all points which are already being looked at.

The members of the Committee and the Chairman were diligent in their questioning and despite obvious attempts on times to skirt the question, both Mr Hammond and Sir Alan Massey were brought back to clarify or quantify their responses.

Having been recently appointed, Mr Hammond was clearly always going to be out of his depth and this was immediately evident when he read out a statement which had been pre-prepared. Anyone listening could be forgiven for thinking that the statement came from the pen of the previous incumbent of the Shipping portfolio; Mike Penning MP because the well worn words cut no ice with anyone. And so it went on.

Sir Alan Massey once again appeared like a rabbit caught in the headlights. The jury is still out as to whether or not he is actually comfortable with this appalling plan which undoubtedly will increase the risk to life. He is a intelligent man but clearly, earlier appearances in front of Westminster MP’s has done little to make him appear as if he is actually convinced that the plan is the safe way to proceed. Several times he had to resort to responding to the Committee that he would “get back to them” with an answer to a question and on several occasions Mr Hammond had to step in to bail him out when floundering. If this was not such a serious issue then it would have appeared somewhat comical.

The upshot is that the MCA and DfT are set to continue to ignore the opinion of industry experts and will continue to trot out lame lines in order to justify their actions. The Committee should be congratulated for the way they negotiated their way through troubled waters. It is my opinion at least that they did stand up for their communities in a dignified and professional manner….it’s just a pity that nobody at the DfT or MCA can do the same.

After 21 months, the plan to close Coastguard stations remains flawed and the DfT and MCA are incapable of facing this fact. Their actions are shameful and we can only hope that the TSC inquiry will once again find them wanting and finally that the authors of this appalling plan will be sacked for gross negligence.

View the fill session here:



Richard Drax, MP for South Dorset, has today delivered a comprehensive report defending the Portland search and rescue helicopter to the powerful, Commons Transport Select Committee.

The 12-page report is in response to the Committee’s request for submissions of written evidence on changes to the coastguard service, to be handed in by Friday, September 14th.

In particular, the Select Committee has asked for evidence of how changes to the coastguard service are being implemented and their potential impact on service delivery.

Drax’s  report, written after extensive research amongst those who rely upon and those who operate the helicopter, concludes that plans to close the Portland helicopter in 2017 “would be an act of sheer folly, especially when the evidence for retention is so clear.”

The report also uses criticisms by the validating consultants on the Department for Transport’s own report, to highlight how flawed the decision making process has been.

“Some factors critical to this service and which could affect this service were not examined,” says Drax.

“Whilst the equal spacing of assets around Britain’s coastline in the proposals may appear ‘fair’, it smacks of political compromise and makes absolutely no sense when we know that 25 per cent of all incidents are located in one area – ours,” he says.

In addition, he points to the last Transport Select Committee report on the reorganisation of the coastguard service, published in July 2011, in which the committee criticised the DfT for announcing the proposals “with no prior consultation whatsoever,” and without considering their “combined impact.”

“It is alarming to refer back and see how many points raised then are pertinent now,” he says. “Because the last Secretary of State didn’t have the good sense to consult, I would strongly urge the Select Committee to invite those intimately involved in Portland helicopter operations to give oral evidence to the Committee.”

“Regrettably, many will probably be reluctant witnesses for fear of losing their jobs. It must be foremost in the Committee’s mind that those jobs are guaranteed.”

Drax also thanked Dr Ian Mew, Consultant in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care at Dorset County Hospital, for first setting up the e-petition in support of the Portland helicopter on the Government website.

“With the helipad at the Dorchester hospital, Dr Mew sees firsthand how invaluable our helicopter is,” says Drax, “he has submitted his own, excellent report to the Transport Select Committee, for which we are all very grateful.”

McMillan Welcomes Further Support from Scot Gov to Clyde Coastguard

Stuart McMillan MSP SNP has today (Tuesday) welcomed the news the Scottish Government Minister for Transport, Keith Brown MSP making a last-ditch plea to save some of Scotland’s coastguard stations from closure and is urging the UK Government to reconsider plans to reduce emergency cover.


Keith Brown MSP has submitted further evidence at the request of the Commons Select Committee for Transport, following their previous inquiry into Coastguard Modernisation, Emergency Towing Vessel removal and changes to the MIRG (Maritime Incident Support Group) which were published in June last year.

Despite changes in the UK Government’s stance in relation to the Coastguard closures, Scotland is still scheduled to lose one ETV, reducing cover by 50 per cent, and see two of its coastguard stations – Clyde and Forth – closed.

Mr McMillan said:

“I welcome the continued assistance and pressure from the Scottish Government to overturn the ludicrous decision by the UK coalition Government to close Clyde Coastguard.

“As we are fully aware the Clyde is one of the busiest waterways throughout these islands and its survival is vital in dealing with the many daily situations and utilising the local knowledge of its staff.

“Only last week, I wrote to the new Secretary of State for Transport to encourage him to overturn the decision taken by his previous incumbent to close Clyde coastguard.  I hope he will see sense and rethink the decision to close Clyde.

“Once again, the SNP Government is standing up for the interests of Scotland against the backdrop of a Tory/Lib Dem coalition hell bent on cutting jobs and potentially putting lives further at risk on the Clyde.”


Keith Brown in bid to halt Clyde and Forth Coastguard closures

Coastguard helicopter
Mr Brown has labelled the Forth and Clyde closures a “dangerous experiment”

Scotland’s transport minister has made a “last ditch plea” to save Clyde and Forth coastguard stations from closure.

Keith Brown said the closures and planned loss of an emergency towing vessel put Scotland at the centre of a “potentially dangerous experiment”.

He has outlined the case for retaining services in evidence submitted to the Commons Select Committee on Transport.

Mr Brown also wants to meet with the new UK transport and shipping ministers following last week’s reshuffle.

The UK government is closing eight coastguard stations as part of a modernisation plan.

Other centres set to close include Great Yarmouth, Liverpool, Thames, Swansea, Brixham and Portland.

The Clyde and Forth stations are due to close by the end of the year.

Centres in Belfast and Stornoway will, according to the UK government, take on the Clyde station’s operations, without affecting safety.

‘Urgent meeting’

Responsibilities for the Forth operations will transfer to Aberdeen and Shetland.

Mr Brown said he had submitted further evidence at the request of the Commons Select Committee for Transport, following their previous inquiry into coastguard modernisation.

The plans will boost the level of support we give to volunteer coastguard rescue offices in their local communities, enhancing frontline rescue services”

UK Department for Transport

He said the Scottish government had “consistently opposed the closures” and had “lobbied the UK government to reverse the decisions”.

The minister said that following last week’s UK cabinet reshuffle, he was also seeking “an urgent meeting with the new UK shipping minister and new UK transport secretary”.

“I’m keen for talks to take place as soon as possible with the new shipping minister to see if a new minister will mean a change of mind over the fate of essential maritime services,” he said.

“Since the original report last year the UK government has watered down coastguard closures, but Scotland is still very much in the firing line.

“This is too important an issue to gamble with. The UK government’s proposed coastguard closures effectively mean cover falling from seven stations to three in just over a decade, leading to a loss of critical local knowledge and expertise.”

Mr Brown said Clyde Coastguard was “the busiest rescue and co-ordination centre in Scotland, and among the busiest in the UK”.

“We are not convinced by reassurances that adequate cover can be provided by resources from Belfast and Stornoway,” he said.

‘Resilient system’

“At present Scotland will be the first area to lose stations and stations will be shut before the system has been robustly tested.

“We should not be the guinea pig for such a potentially dangerous experiment.”

A spokesman for the UK department for transport said: “Our reforms to modernise the Coastguard follow two periods of extensive public consultation and will deliver a more resilient fully-networked national system that is fit for the 21st century.

“The plans will boost the level of support we give to volunteer coastguard rescue offices in their local communities, enhancing frontline rescue services.

“These changes are continuing in line with the timetable and blueprint we published last November.”

Coastguard campaigners submit formal response

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Profile image for This is SouthDevon This is SouthDevon


CAMPAIGNERS fighting controversial cuts to the UK Coastguard service have submitted their formal response to the Transport Select Committee Inquiry who are examining the affect that closures will have on coastal areas.

Despite two public consultations, the national Coastguard SOS Campaign Group remain concerned that the plan, which will see the closure of Coastguard rescue coordination centres at Liverpool, Brixham, Clyde, Portland, Thames, Swansea, Forth and Yarmouth remains dangerously flawed.

  1. Coastguard


Speaking on behalf of the SOS group; Dennis O’Connor said: “The planned closure of Coastguard rescue coordination centres is not based upon operational reasoning.

“We are very concerned that insufficient consideration has been given to the affect that the loss of stations will have on coastal communities and on the safety of those who use the coast for recreational and commercial purposes.”

The Government plan is to centralise incident coordination responsibilities and distribute the workload to quieter stations.

Campaigners are adamant that this will increase the risks involved.

Mr O’Connor added: “The planned centralisation of incident coordination has been rejected by Coastguard officers and campaigners because essential local knowledge will be lost.

“The Maritime and Coastguard Agency are pinning everything on the trials of, as yet unproven technology to ‘capture’ local knowledge but with the first of the stations due to close in a matter of weeks it is highly likely that key knowledge will be lost.”

In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, Justine Greening MP was replaced as Secretary of State for Transport by Patrick McLoughlin MP and Mike Penning MP the UK Shipping Minister who has been a central figure in plans to close Coastguard stations was replaced by Stephen Hammond MP. Dennis O’Connor said “the recent reshuffle has brought fresh hope that the new Ministers will adopt more of an open dialogue approach and will urgently reconsider the closure programme. We have written to both Mr McLoughlin and Mr Hammond requesting a meeting at their earliest convenience in order that we may be able to assess the affect that the change in Ministers will have on the closure plans”.

Submissions to the Transport Select Committee inquiry must be received no later than 14th September and the SOS campaign group are urging maritime stakeholders and the public to submit their concerns. Details of the inquiry may be found at or on the Coastguard SOS Campaign website


Campaigners hope cabinet re-shuffle falls their way

CAMPAIGNERS hoping to stop the closure of Mumbles Coastguard station hope the recent cabinet reshuffle will be a step towards a re-think of the plans.

The UK government is planning to close half its coastguard rescue coordination centres, including Swansea, as well as centres in Liverpool, Brixham, Clyde, Portland, Thames, Forth and Yarmouth.

  1. Mike Penning

    Mike Penning

But the National Coastguard SOS Campaign Group said the cuts would lead to a loss of local knowledge and consequently pose a real threat to lives.

The parliamentary Transport Select Committee is holding an inquiry examining the effect closures will have on coastal areas, and the Coastgaurd SOS Campaign group has now submitted its final formal response to this, stating that despite two public consultation exercises, the closures remain dangerously flawed.

Dennis O’Connor, of the SOS group, said: “The planned closure of coastguard rescue coordination centres is not based upon operational reasoning.

“We are very concerned that insufficient consideration has been given to the affect that the loss of stations will have on coastal communities and on the safety of those who use the coast for recreational and commercial purposes.”

The Government plans to centralise incident coordination responsibilities and distribute the workload to quieter stations.

But campaigners have insisted it will increase the risks.

Dennis O’Connor added: “The planned centralisation of incident coordination has been rejected by coastguard officers and campaigners because essential local knowledge will be lost. The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) are pinning everything on the trials of, as yet, unproven technology to ‘capture’ local knowledge, but with the first of the stations due to close in a matter of weeks it is highly likely that key knowledge will be lost”.

The group also voiced hope that the cabinet reshuffle would lead to a more open dialogue.

Former Transport Secretary Justine Greening MP was replaced by Patrick McLoughlin MP, while shipping minister Mike Penning, who has been a central figure in plans to close coastguard stations was replaced by Stephen Hammond MP.

Dennis O’Connor said: “The recent reshuffle has brought fresh hope that the new ministers will adopt more of an open dialogue approach and will urgently reconsider the closure programme. We have written to both Mr McLoughlin and Mr Hammond requesting a meeting at their earliest convenience in order that we may be able to assess the affect that the change in ministers will have on the closure plans.”

Mike Dubens, publicity officer for the Save Swansea Coastguard said: “The government has asked for response and that is encouraging because it means they are willing to look again at concerns. Unfortunately, Carwyn Jones appears to have backtracked on undergoing a risk assessment of the closure, which would have been another string in our bow. But hopefully, the new faces following the reshuffle will mean there is a fresh approach to reconsidering the closures”

MCA pinning Coastguard Station closures on ‘banking’ local knowledge



















 Bizarre as it may seem, the Maritime and Coastguard Association [MCA]  is hoping to justify the UK Government proposal – to which it has agreed -to close  50% of Coastguard rescue coordination centres at Liverpool, Brixham, Clyde, Portland, Thames, Swansea, Forth and Yarmouth.

The Government plan is to centralise incident coordination responsibilities and distribute the workload to quieter stations. For instance, this would see the busy Clyde Coastguard closed by the end of this year and its massive and complex sea area transferred to the responsibility of the quieter Belfast Station.

Belfast already has responsibility for the coast of Northern Ireland, including its sea lochs, between the northern coastal border with the Republic of Ireland at Lough Foyle and the eastern border at Carlingford Lough. Under the proposed rearrangements, Belfast would also take on Clyde Cloastguard’s huge sea area from the Mull of Galloway to Ardnamurchan Point – including the islands of Arran, Cumbrae and Bute and all of the sea lochs in the Clyde waterway system – and the Atlantic Islands of Islay, Jura, Colonsay, Gigha, Coll, Tiree, The Treshnish Isles, Iona, Mull, the Slate Isles, Lismore and Kerrera.

Much of this is in Argyll and the Isles, whose coastline is longer than that of France.

The complexity of this sea area is bewildering enough for those who live here never mind those who do not.

Local knowledge is, of course, vital in identifying accurately where a casualty is located in order to instruct a lifeboat or SAR helicopter correctly.

It is true that with the movement of coastguard staff around the various UK stations, there will be coastguards at the Belfast station who have worked at Clyde and will  have had knowledge of this sea area. But that knowledge will not be current and may not be deeply embedded in the memory of the officer concerned.

Clyde Coastguard’s is arguably the most complex sea area in the UK  – and it takes no more than five minutes with as bland and uninformative a document as a road map to establish this fact.

Coastguard campaigners are adamant that the planned amalgamation of areas of responsibility can only increase the risks involved. In some areas this risk will centre on the volumes of commercial shipping, In others, like much of Clyde Coastguard’s, the risk will centrally be to the leisure sailing sector which is a lively feature of such waters and coastlines.

Speaking on behalf of the National Coastguard SOS group, Dennis O’Connor says: ‘The planned closure of Coastguard rescue coordination centres is not based upon operational reasoning.

‘We are very concerned that insufficient consideration has been given to the affect that the loss of stations will have on coastal communities and on the safety of those who use the coast for recreational and commercial purposes.

‘The planned centralisation of incident coordination has been rejected by Coastguard officers and campaigners because essential local knowledge will be lost.

‘The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) are pinning everything on the trials of (as yet) unproven technology to ‘capture’ local knowledge but with the first of the stations due to close in a matter of weeks it is highly likely that key knowledge will be lost’.

The MCA’s  wish-list plan is so surreal as to make one ask if they have found a way to hoover the contents of a specific part of a serving officer’s memory into a data store and simultaneously translate them into digital format?

There is no substitute for local knowledge.

A data bank will reveal that there are three sea lochs called ‘Tarbert’ within Clyde coastguard’s area. It will not be able to tell which of these is the site of the distressed casualty. The location of these lochs is such that a mistaken instruction to a lifeboat could not be rectified in tie to get to the correct location unless the situation was very far from being an emergency.

Has the UK Government reshuffle enabled an informed rethink?

In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening MP, was replaced by Patrick McLoughlin MP.  At the same time Shipping Minister, Mike Penning MP -  who has been a central figure in plans to close Coastguard stations, was replaced by Stephen Hammond MP.

Dennis O’Connor says: ‘The recent reshuffle has brought fresh hope that the new Ministers will adopt more of an open dialogue approach and will urgently reconsider the closure programme.

‘We have written to both Mr McLoughlin and Mr Hammond requesting a meeting at their earliest convenience in order that we may be able to assess the affect that the change in Ministers will have on the closure plans’.

It is certainly important for rational and informed decision taking that the new ministers should choose to meet with those who actually know the score on the impact of the current proposals at an operational level.

Mr Hammond’s CV betrays no experience of personal or professional knowledge of matters maritime or even marine. Although born and educated in Southampton, he was a city financier by profession and has been deeply engaged in politics since the late 180s. He is MP for Wimbledon, whose nearest coastguard station is some way away.

The new Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, is from Staffordshire, trained in agriculture and from a mining family whose example he followed. He has no natural affinity with the maritime world nor, indeed, with the aviation world which, with the row over the third runway for Heathrow, is likely to be his most pressing concern.

The coastguard campaigners and those of us who know how important the coastguard service is, can only hope that both new ministers in this department will recognise the limitations on their understanding and see the wisdom of meeting and listening to the information from the coastguards.

Submissions to the Transport Select Committee

Campaigners fighting controversial cuts to the UK Coastguard service have submitted their formal response to the Transport Select Committee Inquiry who are examining the affect that closures will have on coastal areas.

Despite two public consultations, the National Coastguard SOS Campaign Group remain concerned that the plan remains dangerously flawed.

Submissions to the Transport Select Committee inquiry must be received no later than 14th September.

The SOS campaign group are urging maritime stakeholders and the public to submit their concerns.

Details of the inquiry may be found on the parliamentary committees website here ; or on the Coastguard SOS Campaign website here.

Coastguard SOS campaigners react as cabinet reshuffle gives fresh hope as Rt.Hon Patrick Loughlin is appointed as Sec State for Transport and Stephen Hammond MP is appointed as new Shipping Minister.

Dear Mr. McLoughlin

On behalf of the members of the national Coastguard SOS campaign group I would like to welcome you to your new post at the Department of Transport.

The campaign group was formed in 2010 as a result of the announcement that the Government’s “Future Coastguard” plan included the closure of maritime rescue coordination centres (MRCC’s)

We have made repeated attempts to have open dialogue with the Ministers responsible but have been disappointed at the response we have had so far to our concerns regarding the future of HM Coastguard.

With your previous experience at the DfT, we are hopeful that you will begin this important role with an open dialogue policy and demonstrate an understanding of the genuine safety concerns felt not only by campaigners but by serving Coastguard officers and the general public.

Please immediately halt plans to close MRCC’s pending the statement by the Transport Select Committee with a view to recommending to the Prime Minister that safer modernisation plans which do not include the closure of stations be sought immediately.

We have responded to the Transport Select Committee request for further evidence and would be grateful for the opportunity to meet with you in Westminster to discuss our concerns at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely

Dennis O’Connor

National Coastguard SOS campaign coordinator
Note: A similarly worded email has been sent to Stephen Hammond MP



Transport Committee invites written evidence on changes to Coastguard Service

19 July 2012

Call for evidence.


• Transport Committee
• Previous inquiry into changes to the Coastguard service

In 2011 the Transport Committee inquired into the Coastguard, Emergency Towing Vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group.  The Transport Committee intends to follow up this work by taking further evidence on the issues raised during this inquiry.

The Transport Committee invites written evidence on how the Government’s changes to the Coastguard service are being implemented.  The Committee would like to hear about the possible impact on service delivery arising from these changes.  The Committee would also like to follow up its recommendations regarding Emergency Towing Vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group.

Please send a memorandum outlining which you feel are the most important issues faced by these services by 14 September 2012.

Notes on the submission of written evidence

It assists the Committee if those submitting written evidence adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Written submissions should be as short as is consistent with conveying the relevant information. As a rough guide, it is usually helpful if they can be confined to six pages or less. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference. A summary of the main points at the start of the submission is sometimes helpful.
  2. Evidence should be submitted by e-mail to transev@parliament.ukin Word or Rich Text format, with as little use of colour and images as possible. If you wish to submit written evidence to the Committee in another format you must contact a member of staff to discuss this. The body of the e-mail should include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. It should be absolutely clear who the submission is from, particularly whether it is on behalf of an organisation or in the name of an individual.
  3. Once accepted by the Committee, written evidence becomes the Committee’s property and it may decide to publish it or make other public use of it. If the Committee decides to accept your contribution as evidence we will email you formally accepting it as such. You may publicise or publish your submission yourself, once you receive the formal acceptance of your evidence to the Committee. When doing so, please indicate that it has been submitted to the Committee.
  4.  The Committee will usually publish the majority of written evidence that is received, but some submissions will be placed in the Parliamentary Archives for public inspection rather than being printed or published online. If you do not wish your submission to be made public, you must clearly say so, and should contact a member of staff to discuss this. Though the Committee is happy to receive copies of published material or correspondence sent to other parties, formal submissions of evidence should be original work produced for the Committee and not published elsewhere.
  5. Committee staff are happy to give more detailed guidance on giving evidence to a select committee, or further advice on any aspect of the Committee’s work, by phone or e-mail.
Prime Minister apologises for “drafting error” in Coastguard closure letter.
 In a letter to a constituent, Prime Minister David Cameron has apologised for what he called a “drafting error” in a previous letter in which he stated that “those (Coastguard) centres that are planned for closure will remain open until 2015…”.

The Prime Minister’s original statement which was reported last week was welcomed by the national Coastguard SOS campaign group as well as Coastguard officers and politicians. It indicated that Coastguard rescue coordination centres at Brixham, Liverpool, Clyde, Yarmouth, Swansea, Forth, Portland and Thames would get at least a temporary reprieve but this was quickly thrown into confusion when the statement was contradicted by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) who insisted that station closures would “go ahead as planned” beginning as early as 28th September 2012.
Speaking on behalf of the Coastguard SOS campaign group, Dennis O’Connor said that “members of the campaign group are very angry that a statement which was made by the Prime Minister appeared to be overruled by the MCA. This turn of events has caused confusion and great concern to very many people who are genuinely concerned about the safety of coastal users and the future of our Coastguard service. It is just not acceptable that an “error” should occur like this on an issue of such national importance. 
“We have challenged the decision by the coalition Government to close centres across the UK in favour of an untested centralised call centre set up in Fareham and have submitted detailed evidence of what we believe to be dangerous flaws in the Government’s closure plan which will significantly increase the risk to those using the UK coastline. So far this evidence which has been sent to The Prime Minister as well as the UK Shipping Minister; Mike Penning MP has been ignored”. 


Acknowledging the latest letter from David Cameron,  Dennis O’Connor said “Whilst we welcome the interaction of the Prime Minister with his constituent we nevertheless remain concerned that information that he gave out was contradicted by the MCA. It has led us to question the Prime Minister’s ability to make a decision on the future of HM Coastguard without being contradicted by either a Ministerial department or Government organisation such as the Department for Transport or MCA. At the end of the day ultimate resposbility remains with the Prime Minister and we are looking to him to stop this plan before it is too late. It is our opinion that he has not been fully informed by his Minister’s or others responsible for the drawing up of closure plans therefore we will be seeking an urgent meeting with David Cameron to discuss our concerns. One area of concern is the absence of full risk assessments on each Coastguard station; therefore we will take the opportunity to urge him to carry out individual risk assessments on all UK Coastguard stations. Only then may particular risks to those coastal areas be fully appreciated and this is something that the Prime Minister should be fully aware of if he intends to proceed with closure plans”.


This has been very damaging to the service because his statement had raised hope for an already beleaguered staff at those stations scheduled for closure. It is unacceptable that professionals should be subject to this sort of treatment. “Misinformation only serves to strengthen campaigners belief that the closure plans lack any credibility”


The Coastguard SOS campaign has the support of over 200 Members of Parliament from all political parties ( ) in addition to members of the devolved Governments of Wales and Scotland. Full details of the continuing campaign against the closure of UK Coastguard rescue coordination centres may be found at or via twitter @Coastguard_SOS



Confusion over Coastguard station closures as Prime Minister statement is overruled. 

Just four days after receiving a copy of a letter sent to a constituent by the Prime Minister in-which he clearly states:  “those (Coastguard) centres that are planned for closure will remain open until 2015″ the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) have today issued the following statement:

“We can clarify the situation re the closure of Coastguard stations. The closure will go ahead as planned”

Quite why the MCA feel the need to contradict and  ”clarify the situation” is anyone’s guess. The letter from the Prime Minister is printed below. In it you will see the words that he has used and also his signature at the bottom of the letter. Are we to assume that the  obvious intent by the Prime Minister to delay the closure of stations does somehow not fit with the ideals of others at the MCA or DfT? or should we assume that the Prime Minister has somehow made a false statement to a concerned constituent?

This is not only a farce, but it is a national disgrace. The Prime Minister, Shipping Minister and MCA are the people who are responsible for the ill fated plan to close rescue coordination centres yet clearly between them they do not posses the required skills to ensure that they do not appear dysfunctional let alone to present a closure plan which is anywhere near safe and credible.

The statement by the MCA which condones the closure of Coastguard stations at BRIXHAM, FORTH, LIVERPOOL, YARMOUTH, SWANSEA, PORTLAND, CLYDE & THAMES  should be disregarded until the Prime Minister himself either confirms or denies that station closures will take place any earlier than 2015 as he stated.

This mis information has given false hope to already beleaguered staff at those stations scheduled for closure and it is unacceptable that professionals should be subject to this sort of treatment. Once again the Coastguard SOS campaign team demand the cessation of station closure plans with immediate effect and a Parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of those responsible for the shameless way in-which they have acted throughout this process.


Hope for possible reprieve as Prime Minister states closures will not take place until 2015.

The Coastguard SOS campaign team are pleased to have received a copy of a letter from the Prime Minister to a constituent in-which he clearly states “those (Coastguard) centres that are planned for closure will remain open until 2015″.

With the first of the planned station closures due to take place in less than 12 weeks time this is a significant statement of (at least) a temporary reprieve from the Prime Minister.

Whilst natruallly being pleased with this statement, we would however add a note of caution because the campaign to save stations is not yet won. We will continue to demand safer modernisation proposals from the Government and the full retention of all of the UK’s Coastguard rescue coordination centres.




With less than 13 weeks to go before the first of the enforced closures of maritime rescue & coordination centres (MRCC’s) the Coastguard SOS campaign can confirm that the Coastguard service is currently -16% understaffed.

Following a request to the MCA to supply data under the freedom of information act it is confirmed that each maritime rescue & coordination centre is being manned with below the required staffing level. With station closures and the peak summer months imminent this is of grave concern and highlights the damage that has been done to the Coastguard service since Government  closure plans were announced.

On the 28th of September 2012 Coastguard Officers at MRCC Aberdeen are expected to take on the responsibility of the MRCC Forth area. With a chronic shortage of staff at Aberdeen, just how do the MCA Management expect Aberdeen’s Coastguard Officers to be able to manage the additional area without the move putting lives at risk?

Included in the staffing levels data is the number of appointments made for each MRCC since December 2011. A further FOI request has been submitted asking for a breakdown of these appointments to include details of whether those appointed have current operational experience.

HM Coastguard is the smallest emergency service in terms of actual staff numbers therefore it is unacceptable that the MCA and Department for Transport allow stations to be understaffed. Their intention to create another level of management for coast rescue teams is a nonsense when there are insufficient experienced watch officers / watch managers in the MRCC’s. 

MRCC Location Status Expected Staffing Level Actual staff level App Since Dec 2011
MRCC Aberdeen Remaining 31 20.5 2
MRCC Belfast Remaining 23 22.64 2
MRCC Brixham Closing 23 20.5 2
MRCC Clyde Closing 31 23.57 0
MRCC Dover Remaining 33 22.5 1
MRCC Falmouth Remaining 27 24 2
MRCC Forth Closing 20 13 0
MRCC Holyhead Remaining 22.9 20 0
MRCC Humber Remaining 29 27.78 4
MRCC Liverpool Closing 23.5 21.5 1
MRCC Milford Haven Remaining 23 21 5
MRCC Portland Closing 25 20.14 3
MRCC Solent Closing 29 28.24 1
MRCC Swansea Closing 27 22.5 3
MRCC Thames Closing 25 19.6 5
MRCC Yarmouth Closing 25 22.78 4
Total 417.4 350.25 35


Maritime & Coastguard Agency and OS embarks on a vernacular geography project trial

It beggars belief that with just 13 weeks to go before the closure of the first of the Coastguard centres at Forth, the MCA are only now embarking on the trial of unproven technology which should form a key part of the closure plans.

It is as clear a message as any that the Government’s closure plan should be scrapped immediately because the safety of UK citizens is clearly being regarded with a very blasé attitude. As you read the attachment you will see that campaigners concerns deepen because the system is only being tested in Clyde,  Solent, Holyhead and Stornoway. Of the trial areas, only Clyde and Solent have stations that are closing. Surely it is obvious that every station that is being axed  should have been included for the trial? These are the key areas where vital local knowledge will continue to be lost with every Coastguard officer that leaves the service either prior to or at the point of closure. Are the MCA suggesting that the coastal areas of Liverpool, Brixham, Portland, Yarmouth, Swansea, Forth and Thames are of no consequence when it comes to retaining vital local knowledge?

There is increasing concern regarding evidence of discrepancies in statements made by the Shipping Minister regarding the “regular” pairing of stations, contradictory statements being made by the MCA regarding current training provision and apparent reckless decision making by those responsible for the closure plans, the whole thing is being handled in a very unprofessional manner but nobody is seen to being held to account in all of this.

We will continue to challenge this process and demand that assurances be given that no station will be closed without the new maritime operations centre (MOC) system having been fully tested successfully (as was originally stated by the MCA).

In addition it is obvious that the MCA are not fully prepared for the closure of Forth Coastguard in just 13 weeks time because by their own admission staff at Aberdeen are currently undergoing training on the Forth area of responsibility. If Mr Penning’s statements on the “regular pairing” of stations was true then there would be no necessity for Aberdeen staff to undergo training of an additional area.

The service is in dire straits. The haemorrhaging  of experienced Coastguard officers cannot be allowed to continue without the cause being fully investigated and the findings acted upon. It is not  appropriate for any Government Minister to continue with a course of action which ultimately will risk the lives of coast users if fully tested and proven safeguards have not been put in place prior to the closures.

The current Government is embarking on a closure programme which will not only risk the excellent worldwide reputation of HM Coastguard but will be a greater risk to life.


OS embarks on a vernacular geography project


Publish Date: 27 June 2012UK: Ordnance Survey’s (OS) Research department created a new system, FINTAN, which is being trialled in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) at Clyde, Solent, Holyhead and Stornoway. The system allows staff to add local names for beaches, rocks, waterways and other features with local names onto the existing mapping data, something which is of interest and benefit to both organisations and the public. FINTAN includes 1:50 000 Scale Gazetteer, 1:25 000 Scale Colour Raster and OS MasterMap Address Layer 2 to form a search facility for the Agency to use. It also permits the use of grid references alongside latitude and longitude – as used by Her Majesty’s Coastguard allowing the other emergency services to use different reference systems for the same location.The system could provide the answer to a common challenge for Ordnance Survey and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in collecting information on the names people use to describe places that aren’t commonly shown on mapping data or exist within gazetteers. For the Coastguard, a large number of emergency calls are received for incidents located on, or just off the coast of Great Britain and postcodes are not of great use, making locating people a challenge. People will often use nicknames for beaches, rocks and areas that are not captured as official place names on a map, but may be well-known to the locality. So far, the MRCCs have been adding names for off-shore rocks and nicknames for islands – such as Sausage Island (Ynys-las, Gwynedd) and Dell Rock, off Stornoway. As the Coastguard moves towards a national maritime operations centre, a greater emphasis will need to be placed on capturing local knowledge to support emergency response and coordination functions.Steve Brown, Head of Technical Development at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said, “As one of the emergency services, we currently operate 18 Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres around the United Kingdom and our Coastguard staff hold an enormous amount of local knowledge, which is often key to emergency response and coordination. As we move towards a national maritime operations centre, we will have a heavier reliance on geographic information and we will need to ensure that we robustly incorporate our local knowledge within the modernised Coastguard organisation.”“Through FINTAN, Ordnance Survey is enabling Her Majesty’s Coastguard to consistently capture this valuable information and make it available across the whole country, something we’ve not been able to manage previously.”For Ordnance Survey, the Research department have long recognised the strength of local knowledge and have been investigating the building of an “alternative gazetteer” through crowd-sourcing that references local nicknames and could include, for example, a popular name for a road junction or bridge.“With the huge variety of place nicknames that exist, we could never hope to capture them all ourselves,” said Glen Hart, Ordnance Survey’s Head of Research. “Technically, this research goes by the name of vernacular geography, which is looking into which names should be recorded and how best to discover them.

“Projects like this can provide us with useful research data and help organisations like the Maritime and Coastguard Agency when responding to emergency calls. By having a set of ‘unofficial’ names we could help the emergency services quickly locate the right place, and maybe even save lives.”

The next phase for both organisations is to test and check the added names and to work with local organisations, such as sailing clubs, to see if more coastal knowledge can be gleaned. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency are already pleased with their trial of Ordnance Survey’s FINTAN system and plan to roll it out across all of its Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres over the coming months.

SAVE CLYDE COASTGUARD: Public Meeting Thursday 14th June 2012 at Gamble Halls, Gourock from 6pm to 8pm.
BREAKING NEWS: The MCA have announced that the maritime rescue & coordination centre at FORTH will cease to be operational from 28th September 2012.
Comment: Government Ministers and MCA Directors who allow this closure programme to begin are doing so without any proof that lives will not be put at risk. The pivot of the closure plan, the grandly named “Maritime Operations Centre” is nowhere near operational and is believed to be spiralling over budget and behind schedule,
 News from Clyde CoastguardPublic Meeting We will be holding a Public Meeting on Thursday 14thJune 2012 at Gamble Halls, Gourock from 6pm to 8pm.Please come and join us and let your views on the closure of Clyde Coastguard Station be known.The staff at Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre Clyde are extremely concerned that the proposals put forward by the MCA are entirely driven by saving money and do not take into consideration the safety of the people that make their living from and use the waters of the West of Scotland for leisure. 
 Staffing The staffing levels at Clyde are a concern to the staff, where we should have 30 watch keepers we currently have only 20. To maintain our June Risk Assessed levels 97 overtime slots have been identified.  In order to fill these slots each member of staff would require doing 5 overtime shifts each, however only 14 staff do overtime, which would require everyone to do 7 shifts each to cover the shortfall. Each overtime slot requires 12 hours to have it covered.In July and August the Risk Assessment levels raise to coincide with our busiest time, at the same time staff with families would wish to take their leave, this will see even more shifts needing cover. Other stations in Scotland have the similar problems!This can neither be good for the health of the staff nor the safety of the mariner.
 Handing over co-ordinationMCA Management have decided that we will be handing co-ordination of Clyde district over to Belfast Coastguard from 10am until 4pm on the 7th & 8thJune 2012. (Thursday & Friday).Staff are concerned that the Local Knowledge, IT Equipment and the Health and Safety of the Staff is not adequate.There have been some issues with the IT equipment that the Agency planned to use.They are now having to take a different route which costs more money.Where is this coming from?
 Statistics  According to MIS – the MCA incident database – the following table shows the incidents dealt with so far in 2012 by the stations in the Scotland and Northern Ireland.





















































These figures show clearly where the majority of incidents occur and that the removal of MRCC Clyde will significantly increase the risk to the people using the waters of the west of Scotland.


It is worth noting that MRCC Clyde had more incidents in May than either Stornoway or Shetland has had in 2012.


  Questions to be asked by MPs Thousands of letters were sent to the Mike Penning last year.  No-one has had a reply to date. Why?Katy Clark MP North Ayrshire asked for all documentation relating to Clyde Coastguard closure and has been refused. Why?Do the Agency have a plan B?  If yes what is it?. Events Public meeting on the 14thJune, Gamble Halls, Gourock 6pm till 8pm.Members to lobby Westminster on the 20thJune.Trying to arrange a meeting with Ian Davidson, Shadow Minister for Scotland and Keith Brown Minister of Transport for Scotland. Industrial action from the 8thJune.  






Write to your local MP asking them to raise the issue

and change the Ministers decision.


Please sign the petition to Save Our Stations.






View full Welsh Assembly Petitions committee report on Coastguard services:

Petitions committee report on Coastguard services- Speech in the Assembly/ Fy araith yn y Senedd ar gwylwyr y glannau by Bethan Jenkins Thurs 26.04.12

I welcome the chance to debate this today, especially as it is such an important topic not only for the Petitions Committee, but for others like me who represent areas that have been affected by this situation. We are facing a situation where things are being cut in the public sector, and that is affecting many services, but one area above all others that the public expects to be kept sacrosanct is services that keep us safe. In my view, the coastguard is a vital component in keeping the public safe, and so we as a party cannot understand why the UK Government has taken it upon itself to make this particular decision. The fact that the coastguard agency is being considered for such dramatic cuts is irresponsible and dangerous, and I urge everybody here to contact the UK Government to make that representation loud and clear. We all know that the initial consultation was held and that there was a strong backlash against plans to close Holyhead and Milford Haven stations. One of the primary reasons for this was concern over the importance of local knowledge, particularly the Welsh-language place names and the potentially dangerous implications for safety that arose from any plans to close these particular stations.

We, of course, welcome the fact that these stations have remained open, but the second consultation process was a shock, particularly to us in the Swansea area, given that it went from proposing a day service to closing Swansea altogether. We cannot understand that, given that no full risk assessment was carried out and that the views of the House of Commons Transport Committee, which criticised the fact that there was not enough rigour with regard to why these decisions had been made, were not taken into account.

As has been said previously, the south Wales coastline is extremely busy, not just as a result of having a deep-water harbour at Port Talbot, but also because of shipping in the Bristol channel more generally. There are also potential risks in relation to the millions of people who enjoy the coastline of south Wales every year, given that businesses that depend upon the tourism industry depend upon a safe marine environment. A major issue that has been brought to the committee’s attention is the concern of campaigners, as a result of campaigning locally, that confidence regarding the safety of the coastline could be compromised if the station at Swansea is closed. Is it really of any surprise that that might be the case? For example, if you were a tourist visiting the south Wales coastline, might you think twice in future about coming to the area if you knew that your life could potentially be put at risk because the services were not provided in that area, or if phone calls were answered from the Outer Hebrides as opposed to being answered by professional, well-educated coastguard officers in and around the Swansea area?

My final point is to urge the Welsh Government to look at the risk assessment issue. If the UK Government decides not to fully fund the risk assessment that we have called for in the report, will the Welsh Government undertake to perform that risk assessment, not necessarily alone, but potentially in conjunction with the SNP Government, which has raised concerns about the closure of stations in Scotland? We would not need to fund it on a Wales level; we could look to our colleagues elsewhere to see what is possible. I do not think that it is good enough for the Welsh Government to say ‘Sorry, we can’t take any responsibility for this’. Implications in relation to tourism and to the marine environment are under the control of the devolved nations. I therefore urge the Minister to consider this and to urge the UK Government to co-operate as much as it can.

None of us are happy that this decision has been made. If we were in Government at a UK level, we would reverse this decision now. However, as a party, we are not in Government at a UK level—[Interruption.] Having the powers here would be even better. I thank everyone who has taken part in the petitions process, particularly the campaigners from the Public and Commercial Services Union and local people in Swansea, who have been superb in helping us to frame this document to make it the effective and balanced report that we wanted it to be.


Large expanses of UK coastline to be left without effective Coastguard cover

 The following map details areas of the UK where the Government intend to close Maritime rescue & coordination centres (MRCC’s). When taking into account the nautical mileage between existing sites, the closure of these stations will lead to a significant and worrying decrease in the ability of HM Coastguard to successfully coordinate the swift and effective response to an emergency.

The Government’s response is to entrust the safety of those using the UK coast for leisure or commercial purposes to a call centre in Hampshire. This call centre will not only be responsible for the coordination of rescues on the South coast but for the whole of the UK and Northern Ireland including remote Scottish Islands.

It is high time that the Shipping Minister, Transport Minister and Prime Minister fully understood and appreciated the fact that by proceeding with their plan they are risking lives of thousands of people for years to come.



Welsh Government response to the report of the Petitions Committee Maritime and Coastguard Agency in Wales

The Welsh Government has always said the proposals to close Coastguard stations in Wales were ill thought-out.

The Welsh Government response to the consultation supported the retention of the Holyhead MRCC over Liverpool to address concerns over language issues in North Wales. However, the response neither supported nor opposed the proposals to close Swansea at the expense of Milford Haven.

The result of the last consultation was to retain Milford Haven & Holyhead and to close Swansea before the 31 March 2015.

Detailed Responses to the report’s recommendations are set out below:

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Welsh Government carry out a risk assessment that will both identify and seek to mitigate any risks to tourists and others who visit the coast for leisure purposes that might result if the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) proposals go ahead. The proposed changes to the MCA is a matter for the UK Government but given the potential effects of those changes for people working on and visiting the shores around Wales, an independent risk assessment might go some way to either alleviate some of the fears highlighted in this report or give the Welsh Government further means to challenge the UK Government’s.

Response : Accept

I have written to the Under Secretary of State for Transport Mike Penning MP proposing that he commission a full and independent assessment of the risks associated with the consequences of the closure. This review would look at the maritime and coastal safety provision as its first priority but would also take into account the related issues of tourism, employment and economic development. I have suggested that it would need to be mindful specifically of the impact this closure could have on our future inward investment aspirations, especially the deep water harbour in Port Talbot which I hope may become a hub for commercial maritime traffic and an additional level of consequent risk.

Financial Implications – I am prepared for the Welsh Government to jointly finance such a review given the importance of this matter and funding will be met from existing resources.

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the Welsh Government continues to challenge the UK Government’s current plans to change the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which will result in Swansea Coastguard Station closing.

Response : Accept

I will continue to challenge the UK Government’s current plans

Financial Implications – None.

Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister for Wales



Petitions Committee welcomes First Minister’s response to Coastguard report


The National Assembly for Wales’s Petitions Committee has welcomed the response of the First Minister, Carwyn Jones AM, to its report on the reorganisation of coastguard services in Wales. The Committee called on the Welsh Government to commission an independent risk assessment of proposals to close Swansea’s coastguard station as part of the UK Government’s restructuring of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The Committee acted after receiving a petition with almost 300 signatures raising concerns about the proposals which could see operations for the Swansea area potentially co-ordinated from stations located elsewhere in the UK.

Although powers over the Maritime and Coastguard Agency are not devolved, the Petitions Committee believes the Welsh Government is able to commission its own risk assessment because of the possible implications for people who work or visit coastal areas in Wales.

“We made two recommendations in our report and I am pleased to say both have been accepted by the Welsh Government,” said William Powell AM, Chair of the Petitions Committee.

“The First Minister has contacted the UK Government offering to share the cost of a full independent risk assessment of the implications in Wales and has committed to challenge the proposed changes to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

“This is exactly what the petitioners who raised this issue with us called for and my committee colleagues and I are delighted to have been able to assist them.”



This is what the Prime Minister is saying about Coastguard closures to his constituents

 The following written response by Prime Minister to a constituent proves that either he had been badly briefed by Ministers or he is otherwise ignorant of the role that Coastguard officers situated within Maritime rescue coordination centres (MRCC’s) play in the provision of an effective coastal rescue response and coordination service.


The somewhat standard letter is an insult to those who are employed in the Coastguard service, to his constituent and the public who will be affected by these ill thought out plans.

The Coastguard SOS campaign rejects the way in which skewed information has been disseminated by Ministers and demand that the Prime Minister accept responsibility for the failings of his Ministers to present an accurate and logical way forward if his Government intend to “modernise” HM Coastguard. Ultimately he will be responsible for putting the lives of coastal users and those using the sea for business and pleasure in danger by the closure of essential MRCC’s for the Governments preferred option of a call centre.

NB. We have been informed that the underlining of passages in the letter was done by the Prime Minister and not the person who received the letter.


Staff Exit Questionnaire raises concerns about ignorance and systematic bullying by management

The following information extract is verbatim from an MCA employee who is about to leave the service.

In response to Q3 – What did you least like about your job and why? 

The constant and consistent undermining and dismissal of the massive contribution to safety made by Coastguard Operations Room staff, on a daily basis, by Regional and Headquarters Management.

 The creation and protection, of very highly salaried and meaningless positions within MCA Headquarters, whilst simultaneously ignoring the legitimate concerns raised by the “Uniformed” branch in regard to the staffing levels and pay parity with the other Emergency Services.

 In recent months I/we have found it increasingly difficult to have Press Releases issued in regard to ongoing or retrospective incidents. Speaking on an informal basis with colleagues around the coast, this appears to be a definite trend. Colleagues whose station is scheduled to close, may well be blessed/cursed with heightened sensitivity or even a sense of paranoia, however colleagues at Holyhead and other “safe stations” have highlighted the same.

 Furthermore, I have overheard personally two recent exchanges (at the MCA Training Centre in Highcliffe), between a Regional Director whom I recognised, a member of HQ staff that I did not recognise and two visitors. The conversation stated that the “Uniformed branch are a drain on resources and do little more than send a lifeboat out in the general direction of the casualty and hope for the best!”

 I ask you to put yourself in the average watchkeepers position and then combine these two apparently minor occurrences with :

 (a)  The shelving of the last JEGS report, without adequate (or any) explanation.

(b) (Text removed by web admin 24.07.12 at the request of the MCA)

(c)  A tendency, actual and not perceived, for Headquarters and Region to claim credit for Operational Improvements but blame stations for Operational Issues.

(d)  The removal of the Past Graduation Photographs from the walls of the Training Centre which has ensured that Coastguard Officers feel at best marginalised and at worst totally disregarded.

 What can be done to change this?

 Firstly and vitally, MCA Headquarters need to recognise that these concerns are real, widespread and are totally devastating the morale, but not professionalism, of Operations Room Personnel.

 Secondly, an explanation is required if there has been a change in corporate direction to highlight/publicise the MCA as a whole, then why has the change been made and why wasn’t it explained and publicised fully with an invitation to Operations Room Staff to engage and assist in making it work better? If there has not been a change in emphasis then it requires to be addressed why there is this perception on the coast. I would urge you not to dismiss this legitimate feeling and heavily underlines the concerns that I will raise later in response to Question 11.

 In response to Q5 – Do you have any suggestions for improving your current job?

 Immediately address the disparity of salary between Coastguard Operations Room staff and other Emergency Services Ops Room personnel – Act upon the 2006 J.E.G.S. study findings.

 It is appreciated that this is not something that can be easily addressed. The issued is simply that Coastguard Operations Room staff have been asked over many years, to take on more and more responsibilities with any increase in salary. This has further increased the already massive discrepancy between ourselves and similarly tasked personnel in the other Emergency Services. Exacerbating the issue further is the fact that H.M. Coastguard seem to be the only Emergency Service that does not reward its staff for successfully completing voluntary personal development courses!

 In response to Q11 – In what areas do you think the Agency needs to do more?

 It is absolutely Vital that Senior Management, (In MCA Headquarters specifically), change their approach and attitude towards Operations Rooms Staff. Their dismissive, arrogant and high handed approach is typical of the management style, structure and mindset that has changed only on the surface since the 1980’s.

 Paying “Lip Service” to the above stated values is at best complacent and at worst disengenous whilst being morally and professionally reprehensible. Further, I have no confidence whatsoever that these comments will be registered, considered or otherwise acknowledged beyond the reader!

 There is no simple answer!

 From my perspective, because the roots of these issues are so widespread, well developed (some may say entrenched) and seemingly endemic, the solutions are equally complex.

 Firstly, (again) the issues must be recognised as real and not the imaginings of some disenchanted individuals.

 Secondly, there are individuals at MCA Headquarters in Spring Place, and scattered around the Regions in and out of uniform, whose management style, approach and behaviour is simultaneously bullying, dismissive, arrogant and totally inappropriate. Some of these individuals, either by accident or design, pass on their perceptions and pre-conceptions of the “Uniformed Branch” to their colleagues. This in turn makes the problem self perpetuating when it should be eradicated!

For the sake of morale, confidence in the system and the common good, these individuals need to be rooted out and identified (if they are not already) and their behavioural issues addressed appropriately. Unfortunately, some of these individuals are known to be adept at covering their tracks, by way of their lofty position and use stealth or threats to achieve this. This will therefore make indentifying these individuals problematical but not impossible.

The third issue that must be faced is the perception that Spring Place is the proverbial “Ivory Tower!” That despite the well intentioned and laudable efforts of some Senior Headquarters Managers to engage with their fellow (uniformed) stakeholders around the coast, there are those who will simply see this as a “box ticking exercise” or a chance to visit a relative who doesn’t live near Southampton whilst making a little extra money through a carefully filled out expenses form! It is absolutely imperative that any/all engagement by Headquarters/Regional Management with Operations Room personnel must be meaningful, genuine and have specific agreed objectives. Any follow on from any issues raised (regardless of result) must, when necessary, be explained transparent and justified. They should follow at least two of the MCA Core Values which are “Trust” and “Respect”.

The last era when there was genuine trust and goodwill within the agency was when Mr Maurice Storey was Chief Executive. To go part of the way to restoring that level of trust with Operations Room personnel and stem the haemorrhaging of morale and staff, it is absolutely critical that MCA Headquarters and Regional Management follow the example set recently. Turning up to visit armed with a smile, handshake and notepad is not staff engagement! It is so much easier for the MCA to dismiss this than to deal with it and face the reality! Make the right choice whilst there is still time!


Maritime & Coastguard Agency fail to answer expert concerns

The following letter has been copied and sent to the Coastguard SOS campaign with the writer’s permission in order to redress the balance of information that has been put into the public domain during Government plans to close MRCC’s.

The writer is a former Coastguard Rescue Officer and Deputy Station Officer and is therefore well versed maritime matters. Previously she submitted a very comprehensive and researched document during the consultation process to-which has received no response.

The points that she raises in this current communication are valid and erudite and so why are they being ignored? It would seem that it is a cynical attempt to ignore difficult questions or statements in some sort of misguided hope that if nothing is done then perhaps the questioner may go away. Clearly that is not going to happen in this instance and why should it?

The content of the letter speaks for itself but the really worrying question is this…..How many instances have there been when vital questions / statements or evidence showing examples of why the closure plan is dangerous and will not work have actually been swept under the carpet?

Once again the Coastguard SOS campaign calls upon the Prime Minister to order closure plans to be scrapped immediately and a full investigation to be carried out into the conduct of those responsible.


19th March 2012

 Mr Rod Johnson

Chief Coastguard 

Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Spring Place

105 Commercial Road

Southampton Hants

SO15 1EG

 Consultation on Proposals for the Future of HM Coastguard

 Dear Mr Johnson, 

I am writing to you as I have not yet received a reply or response in any format from you or your ‘Team’ to my letter of the 2nd November 2011; I would have thought four months was an adequate amount of time and I am therefore prompting you to respond and provide some apposite and sensible answers. 

Neither have I received any satisfactory response at all to the document entitled ‘Responses: Modernising the Coastguard: Consultation 2010’ by Karen A.M. Thompson MA FRSA, from either you, any member of the ‘The Team’ or anyone else at Spring Place who received a copy, including Rebecca Banting and Admiral Sir Alan Massey. The document was written in January 2011 and dispatched to your office in February 2011, and has since been used by the Transport Select Committee and is available on the internet at, so it is rather disappointing that neither you or your ‘Team’ have chosen not to respond to this in more depth as you have now been in possession of the document for over a year. 

Many crucial questions still remain unanswered. Problems remain unresolved. One of these problematic questions is: would the potential future Milgram Effect on current and future HM Coastguard employees in the new centres (particularly the MOC) be more apparent and thus detrimental to MSAR Ops due to the proposed reduction in staff numbers, and would the potential impairment of their judgement due to aforementioned Effect when dealing with high risk ships and/or associated incidents during the hours of darkness with English and non-English speakers, coupled with the Loading and Limited Resilience in the Pairing of Centres (which incidentally are not actually paired yet are they, really) have a subsidiary or incidental effect on other incidents running parallel in one or both centres? 

Obviously the recent review of the 2002/59/EC and 2009/17/EC Directives and SafeSeaNet will have a bearing on this as well, (which, incidentally was mentioned in the report to which you have failed to respond) and as the recent study within the MarNIS project identified the following preliminary conclusions with respect to reporting requirements in Directive 2002/59/EC;

‘Duplication of reporting requirements within the same Directive as well as between different directives’; and ‘Information flows were sometimes “disjointed” in that a receiving stakeholder was not always the same stakeholder as that required to pass the information on.’

How would those in receipt of information pertaining to any of the above know to whom to pass the information of which they would be in receipt, if they were unsure of the significance of that information, and who would actually have to take action as a result of receipt of said information? Who would become responsible for monitoring this kind of information at the new MOC? You may get conflicting opinions and therefore the appropriate action would not be taken as a result of ensuing confusion. 

In 2008 according to a 2008 EU document (see attached information), “no interface is set up between VDS, VMS and AIS and the systems are not interoperable”. How would everyone communicate and has this been investigated thoroughly? Has the technology been developed sufficiently now? Is there any joined up thinking? 

I would imagine that all interested parties including those operating MSSIS (which is based around the acquisition and analysis of AIS data and used by the two NATO’s Maritime Component Commands including the Northwood HQ) are fascinated by how all this would work. Integration of vessel monitoring is all very well and is of enormous benefit to HMCG but it must be remembered that despite spending 20m Euros on MarNIS not all vessels carry this technology and therefore local knowledge and operator vigilance remain key to all HMCG operations so that they can effectively coordinate rescues of children in canoes in inshore areas as well as deal with major incidents. I suggest you give the people at Northwood HQ a call and ask for their opinion on this. Their number is 01923 956574. 

Also I would like to know if the 2010 Manila Amendments to the STCW 1978 which came in to force on 1st January 2012 will apply to Coastguard Watch Officers? If so, which ones will apply and what type and level of training will be offered to new and existing staff to bring them up to the required standards? Will staff also be given the opportunity to learn to speak Gaelic, (Scots and Irish) and Welsh so they are not at a disadvantage when speaking to those living in areas of the British Isles who speak these languages? 

Finally, how much influence, if any, will the management and operation of the EU LRIT DC (EU Long Range Identification and Tracking Data Centre) exert on the functions, management, operation and control of MSAR in the UK? 

I intend to make a request under the FOI if my questions remain unanswered by April 20th 2012.

Thank you for your attention and I look forward to hearing from you in the very near future,

Yours Sincerely, 

Karen A.M. Thompson MA FRSA

 Additional Information:

14942/1/08 REV 1 PL/alr 1 COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION Brussels, 4 November 2008 SDP/PESD COSDP 949 PESC 1366

From: Secretariat

To: Political and Security Committee:

“the ability to monitor all activities in the maritime domain in order to support, where needed, a timely decision process on actions to be conducted. The aim of maritime surveillance, using all sources of information to build a comprehensive situation awareness, is to understand, prevent wherever applicable and manage in a comprehensive way all the events and actions related to the maritime domain which could impact the areas of maritime safety and security, law enforcement, defence, border control….”


11. With regard to initiatives to promote safety at sea, the Automatic Identification System (AIS)is a system for ship anti-collision, monitoring and tracking and for exchange of data with shore based facilities by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). In some cases, VDS,VMS and AIS data are combined to obtain a more complete picture. However, no interface is set up between VDS, VMS and AIS and the systems are not interoperable.


17. Short range maritime traffic data are currently collected and long range data will in the future be available on demand from the EU Long Range Identification and Tracking Data Centre (EU LRIT DC), to be managed by the Commission, in cooperation with Member States,through EMSA. In accordance with the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Convention of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the remit of the EU LRIT DC will include maritime safety and security, Search and Rescue (SAR) and protection of the marine environment.


Katy Clark MP – Ayrshire North & Arran has tabled an Early Day Motion into proposals to close Coastguard rescue centres

EDM number 2848 in 2010-12, proposed by Katy Clark on 08/03/2012.

That this House is alarmed by the Government’s plans to close coastguard stations at Clyde, Forth, Yarmouth, Thames, Portland, Brixham, Solent, Swansea and Liverpool; notes that this would reduce the number of coastguard stations in the UK from 19 to 10 with aggregate job losses of over 140 and have a negative economic impact on coastal communities; is deeply concerned over the maritime and other safety implications of reducing the number of coastguard stations; recognises that technological advances offer some opportunity for rescues to be co-ordinated from a distance but does not believe that the case has been made by the Government to implement these changes; believes that technology should complement the knowledge of local coastal areas which coastguards possess, not supplant it; and calls on the Government to ensure that no coastguard officer will be made redundant and step back from this hazardous reduction in the number of local coastguard stations.

Editors note:

Click on the link to see which Members of Parliament support this EDM



News copied from the Coastguard SOS blog – Tangled webs and white elephants

We can exclusively reveal on Coastguard SOS that Parliament and the public are being misled. This campaign to save the Coastguard Stations has been driven by people with experience, who care deeply that flaws in the Government’s argument will cost lives.

Central to our campaign is the firmly held belief of current and former serving coastguard officers that local knowledge is critical to respond rapidly to cries for help. This is backed up by coastguard volunteers, serving RNLI crew and others, who live their lives by and on the sea around our coast.

The Transport Secretary has acknowledged the importance of local knowledge. Mike Penning has made the following statements in the House of Commons;

(Clyde) is already paired with Belfast. That happens today and has been the case for many years.

Belfast regularly covers the resilience for Clyde and has the local knowledge that is necessary.

(Walton-on-the-Naze) will close but the station that covers it on a regular basis will stay open (and) local knowledge will still be there …

The point of keeping one centre in a pair …. is to retain the local knowledge.

The problem is that most stations are not currently paired and so the Minister, Mike Penning, has misled Parliament when answering questions from Gemma Doyle (West Dumbartonshire), Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside), Paul Maynard (Blackpool North & Cleveleys), Bernard Jenkin (Harwich & North Essex), Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde), Katy Clark (North Ayrshire & Arran), Mark Durkan (Foyle) and Jim Shannon (Strangford). All these MPs would have thought, from Penning’s replies in the Commons (on 22nd November 2011), that pairing was routine, included all coastguard stations and had been in operation for years.  This is simply not true and the people at these stations would readily tell you so if they were not being ‘threatened’ to keep their mouths shut.

The question is, did the Minister deliberately lie to Parliament, or have the senior management of the Coastguard Service lied to the Minister?

If pairing had been a routine and regular occurrence for all stations, why do the notes of the CSM’s Maritime Meeting (on 25th January 2012) state;

First step is to get all coastguard operators practised and confident with the current concept of operations for pairing at all locations. This should focus on specific activities such as routine monitoring of channel 16 or routine telephone calls to relieve load on paired MRCC.

It then goes on to say that once this is “achievable at all locations” work on the radio equipment replacement (RER) system can be considered.

At the meeting an official was given the task to “identify and develop standard formats for national procedures beginning with pairing operations”.

On the same day Parliament was misled, the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) blueprint, upon which Mike Penning based his answers, was published. On page seven it makes the remarkable statement “Currently we depend entirely on the local knowledge of our volunteers for detailed information concerning the coastline and coastal water activities where they live.”  Here perhaps lies the truth; that the Minister and the senior coastguard management simply don’t recognise the local knowledge held by personnel in the local stations that are to close and assume the volunteers will provide it. The volunteers may well have detailed knowledge of each cove and cliff, but they are not the ones who are answering calls on channel 16 or through 999. This is when local knowledge is critical to quickly identify where a distressed caller is, when they can’t give a street name or a city landmark.

Let us remember all these calls will in future be taken at a national command centre, even more remote and removed than one of the pairs of local centres that will remain open. This command centre is currently a white elephant.  It was originally commissioned and constructed as the national command centre for the fire service. Thankfully, before it could be put into operation, it was recognised that you cannot effectively co-ordinate an emergency service from a national location. Now, one could possibly think that fire service resources can be directed from anywhere, so long as you have an infrastructure of roads, buildings with numbers and even post codes. If it wasn’t found to be possible for the fire service, imagine how someone receiving the call at the national command centre in Fareham, Hampshire, would deal with a caller caught in a storm, saying “Help please, I’m off the Norfolk coast and we hired a boat from a little place called Ren…”  The radio goes dead at this point.

The national command centre will co-ordinate the UK Search and Rescue region, covering some 1.25 million square nautical miles of sea and over 10.5 thousand nautical miles of coastline.

For more information, please contact:  Dennis O’Connor -             07818 038200       -


As of 09.30 hours on 09.03.2012 three responses had been received from the advance copies that were sent to MP’s, Welsh Assembly Members and Members of the Scottish Parliament!  So who cares?

Iain McKenzie MP, Inverclyde

I should also point out for inclusion that I have written to the Prime Minister following my question to him last month at PMQ asking for his thoughts on reversing this decision, I await a response.

Mike McKenzie MSP

I fully support this campaign and have spoken twice in the Scottish Parliament on this issue.

Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s shadow Transport Secretary

The  decision to close nearly half of the UK‘s coastguard stations has nothing to do with improving safety along Britain’s coastline but is a direct consequence of the government cutting the transport budget too far and too fast. The proposals risk leaving our coastal communities without vital local knowledge that can make all the difference in an emergency as stations are forced to cover areas over which they have no previous experience, contrary to the claims of Ministers.

Thank you for caring, and being honest & transparent ~ there are good people out there.



News has broken that The Maritime rescue coordination centres at Clyde and Great Yarmouth will now close IN ADVANCE of the planned national network of Coastguard stations becoming operational. Up until now assurances had been given that Coastguard rescue centre’s would not be closed prior to full risk assessments being completed. Once again this is a clear case of duplicity by those who are responsible for deliberately disseminating conflicting and false information. Of course we understand that sometimes information may be misunderstood but the evidence in this case speaks for itself.



The following Maritime & Coastguard Agency document confirms that the reality of operational procedures is at odds with information which was repeatedly given to Members of Parliament when the UK Shipping Minister; Mike Penning MP made his statement on plans to close Coastguard rescue centres. It is clear from the following extracts that the pairing of stations is not commonly practiced as was repeatedly stated by the Shipping Minister therefore vital local knowledge does not exist outside of the immediate area. The document also raises further concerns because it is apparent that now the MCA are carrying out risk assessments on the plans to close stations. These risk assessments should have been completed before closure plans were drawn up.

Q. Why did the Shipping Minister tell Parliament that paired stations regularly take over the work of the other station in the pair when there is no evidence to support his statements?

Q. Why are risk assessments now being carried out when this should have been done prior to any closure proposals being put out for for consultation?

The details of this document should be highly embarrassing for the Shipping Minister and Senior MCA officials. It is evident that Members of Parliament and the general public have been misled by the  dissemination of incorrect and misleading information and the Coastguard SOS campaign calls upon the Prime Minister to scrap closure plans immediately and to order a full investigation into the working practice of the DfT & MCA

Notes from Maritime Operations (MarOps) CSMs Maritime Meeting

Held at Spring Place on the 25 January 2012


Three strands of activity for this meeting:


National operational procedures

HR, Training and PDPs


First step is to get all Coastguard operators practised and confident with the current concept of operations for pairing at all locations. This should focus on practicing business continuity plans, and the use of mutual support by taking over specific activities such as routine monitoring of Channel 16 or routine telephone calls to relieve load on paired MRCC.

 Area Operations are better described as Pairing Operations.

 Any barriers to pairing operations be they procedural or technical should be brought to the attention of HQ MarOps.

Once the standard of the current concept of operations is achievable at all locations, then consideration will be given to employing the operational design requirement of the radio equipment replacement (RER) programme. Work can begin here with the integration of Stornoway and Shetland into the NW and NE quadrants respectively. Work in developing the quadrant concept will be examined and standardised prior to deployment to other quadrants after September 2012 (post Olympics). See diagram below.

Requirement to have access to non-paired ViSION systems.

Action: on HQ Ops to arrange ICT facilitation for the North West and North East quadrants.

The occasional use of MRCC Dover to cover the eastern part of MRCC Solent’s area should be practised ahead 1st April 2012 as contingency planning for the Olympics games.

Development of the HMCG national Maritime Operations concept requires further work, in the first instance focussed around risk. Work packages will be created to identify and agree fixed and seasonal risk maps.  This work will be supported by the DfT In House Analysis Consultancy (IHAC) modelling team.

Local Knowledge

Returns, as previously requested, on defining the purpose and content of Local Knowledge to be passed to ***** ********. After extensive discussion it was agreed that the current Area / Operational profiles should be sent to *****with a view to developing a standard format and authoring as a first tier ‘Local Knowledge brief’. Further discussion will be held on other tiers of information and how they might be presented such as either positional information in OS mapping noting the vernacular database trial, or the use of ViSION Action Plan facility.

National Standard Procedures

**** ******** is to identify and develop standard formats for national procedures beginning with pairing operations. This process to be carried out in the ‘discuss, decide, do’ method disseminated previously as part of clarity, consistency, consultation and communication principles.

Current and Future Training Requirements (Incl. PDPs)

****** **** to look into future technical training requirements, competence issues and PDP requests with a view to building capacity at the TC for development of new material and courses for the FCG.


Discussions around the merits of a national recruiting process and whether this would be a more efficient alternative to current local arrangements. This will be discussed further. When thoughts have been distilled.

Action: CSMs (M) to give thought to what a national recruitment process would look like and comprise. ****** **** to lead.

Management Information

Extensive discussion with HR led to requirement for further meeting to agree on required management information.



First Minister calls for independent risk assessments to be carried out

Coastguard SOS campaigners are greatly encouraged by the announcement that the First Minister of Wales; Carwyn Jones who has called upon the UK Government to undertake an independent assessment of the risks associated with their proposed closure of UK Coastguard rescue centres.

“The route they have chosen will put pressure on emergency services and potentially put lives at risk.

“It is vital that a decision of this magnitude is based on a full and objective analysis of all the factors involved – and that is why I have written to Mike Penning, the Under Secretary of State for Transport, to offer to jointly fund a new and independent risk assessment into these plans.

“Maritime issues fall outside of the Welsh Government’s area of control, but I would be prepared to jointly finance such a review given the importance of this matter to the coastal waters stretching around the Bristol Channel, Swansea Bay and beyond.”

The First Minister said the risk assessment should consider the impact of the planned closure on maritime and coastal safety, the impact on tourism and future Welsh Government’s future inward investment proposals.

Coastguard SOS campaigners have already written to the Scottish First Minister; Alex Salmond to request that he also calls for an independent risk assessment and if he agrees then the move will place immense scrutiny on the plans by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency to close rescue centres not just in the Celtic regions but across the whole of the UK.

Now is a time for strong and decisive leadership and after a long and protracted consultation process the Political leaders from Wales and Scotland can have a greater say in how the future of HM Coastguard is shaped for the benefit of everyone.



Northeast coast news enforces call for the retention of Coastguard rescue centre services


German developer RWE and Cammell Laird are about to begin installing the giant Gywnt y Môr wind farm . The two companies signed a 3-year deal late last year for the Birkenhead yard to support RWE in the construction of the €2bn project off the coast of North Wales. For Cammell Laird, the contract could provide a valuable springboard for further

offshore contracts. RWE will pay £5m a year to provide port and quayside facilities to load and fit out the turbine foundations at Cammell Laird’s base on Merseyside. The deal also includes an engineering services agreement, by which Cammell Laird can be called on for a wide range of technical support. The 160 giant monopoles required for the installation will start arriving at Cammell Laird by the second quarter of the year. Each monopole weighs 700 tonnes.

Cammell Laird chief executive John Syvret describes the RWE contract as immensely important: “It catapults us further into the offshore renewables market and showcases the breadth of skills and expertise we have to offer to the broader engineering market, as well as the maritime sector.” Installation of foundations and transition pieces will take about two years with full commissioning due in late 2014.


Peel Ports has begun procurement for the construction of ‘Liverpool 2’, its new deep-water container terminal at the Port of Liverpool. Potential bidders are being asked to submit a pre-qualification questionnaire from which short-listed companies will be invited to tender for the work packages. The development, branded Liverpool 2 , will cost in excess of £300m and is the key project in the Mersey Ports’ 20-year masterplan, launched last summer.

Gary Hodgson, managing director of Peel Ports, said: “There is no doubt that this facility represents a transformational project for the business. It will bring jobs and economic prosperity to the Merseyside region along with the rest of the North West. The scale of these benefits is recognised by the name Liverpool 2, with the new terminal being the

biggest boost to the area since the construction of the Liverpool One development in 2008.”

Liverpool 2 is scheduled to open for business in 2015 and will accommodate two vessels with capacities of up to 13,500 teu at a time. The port currently handles ships of 3,000 teus. Further packages of work will be advertised during the second quarter of 2012, which will include design and consultancy services.


Peel Ports has invested in operational equipment at the Port of Liverpool in the shape of new Terberg RT 283 Tractor units. The Tugmaster units, which are specially designed for heavy haul ro-ro operations, will be deployed at the Liverpool terminals where they are already on site. The tractors boast powerful 4×4 drive and 165 tonne gross combined weight (GCW) capacity. David Huck, head of port operations for Peel Ports Mersey, said: “This latest investment in operational equipment will significantly improve the ro-ro capability of the port to the benefit of our customers and end-users and is in response to this growing sector.”


Liverpool City Council has this week approved a proposal to award contracts for the construction of temporary handling facilities as the city prepares to receive its first cruise ‘turnaround’ business. By the end of May cruise liners will be able start and stop in Liverpool, rather than just calling at the city. The first turnaround cruise – the Ocean

Countess – is scheduled to use the facility on 29 May 2012. Council leader Joe Anderson said: “This is a huge moment for Liverpool and means, for the first time in decades, we have the prospect of big liners starting and ending their voyages in the city.” The city council is awaiting a ruling on how much of the £9.2m public subsidy it was awarded for the construction of the cruise terminal it is now required to pay back. This is because the original terminal was funded on the basis that it would be a ‘call in’ facility only.



ANOTHER reason to keep the Coastguard rescue coordination centre in Liverpool Open: RIVER MERSEY DREDGING STEP CLOSER TO REALISATION

Sefton councillors will ask officials to undertake all necessary activities so that a £35m grant from the Department of Business Innovation & Science can be used for the dredging of the River Mersey. The grant will lead to Peel Ports beginning work on their £226m River Container Terminal at Seaforth to allow the berthing of large, post-Panamax
size, container vessels in the future. Alan Lunt, Sefton director of built environment said: “The dredging and River Terminal will together create 408 construction jobs, with a further 4,600 jobs to follow in port-based industry and logistics over the next decade.” Once the dredging and terminal are complete, smaller ships and barges will be used to ferry cargo up the Mersey to smaller ports at Ince, Warrington and Salford. Cargo will also be transported out of Seaforth via trains. Sefton Council will be recommended to accept in principle the role of accountable body for the dredging project.


 Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee report gives coastguard campaigners hope

Posted on February 23, 2012 by newsroom

The National Coastguard SOS Campaign – fighting all the way against the southern metropolitan plan to reduce radically the number of coastguard stations on UK shores  – including Clyde and Forth in Scotland; and Swansea in Wales – has just had a fuel injection.

The Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee issued a report earlier today, making two recommendations to the Welsh Assembly:

  • that the Welsh Government carry out a risk assessment that will both identify and seek to mitigate any risks to tourists and others who visit the coast for leisure purposes that might result if the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) proposals go ahead.
  • that the Welsh Government continues to challenge the UK Government’s current plans to change the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which will result in Swansea Coastguard Station closing.

The Petitions Committee makes the point that ‘the closure of coastguard stations is not a matter devolved to Wales.  However, as the petition does not challenge the decision itself but calls for the National Assembly to urge the Welsh Government to carry out independent risk assessments, it was deemed admissible.’

Having shown the basis for the committee’s acceptance of the petition, the committee says, on its own account that: ‘The proposed changes to the MCA is a matter for the UK Government but given the potential effects of those changes for people working on and visiting the shores around Wales, an independent risk assessment might go some way to either alleviate some of the fears highlighted in this report or give the Welsh Government further means to challenge the UK Government’s decision on this matter.’

This also underlines the committee’s fundamental acceptance of the argument put forward by the petition.

The Coastguard SOS campaigners  feel that the devolved Scottish Government should consider the report from the point of view of Scottish coast users, who will be as vulnerable as those in other areas.

The hope is that the Welsh and Scottish Governments will order independent risk and impact assessments to be carried out in their countries and then apply pressure to central government.

The evidence given to the Petitions Committee by witnesses included concerns that:

  • the risk assessments published by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) were unreliable;
  • the economies local to the coastguard stations to be closed would suffer, with activity  tourists less attracted to coastal areas without the safeguard of an immediate coastguard presence;
  • the MCA’s downgrading of the importance of local knowledge is mistaken, with the lead petitioner making the point to the committee:, ‘Coastguards are required under MCA Regulations to undertake an examination on Local Knowledge once every 2 years’.
  • there is a risk to maritime security, with the UK Government’s updated National Security Strategy raising the profile of the potential threat to maritime infrastructure.
  • this last issue is underlined by the fact that the MCA proposals do not include a Security Impact Assessment.

A serious general issue raised in the report on witness evidence to the committee is confidence in reliable communications.

The proposal to close the number of coastguard stations proposed, leaving large swathes of UK coastline without the traditional local coastguard presence, depends utterly on the assured reliability of first class communications.

Evidence to the committee included worries about ‘a lack of detail in the  MCA consultation document regarding the effectiveness of the
communications systems in place that may prevent messages on one rescue operation being transmitted if the aerial is already in use by another station.’

On this matter, the committee  says that: ‘It may not be appropriate for the consultation to have gone into such detail, but it remains a concern for the coastguards who will be relying on the system to relay messages in potentially life threatening situations.  Because of this, the concerns should be addressed by the MCA at its earliest convenience.’

We feel that issues so central to the success in assured sea safety of the MCA’s proposals absolutely should be detailed in the consultation process.This is not an aspect of the proposed future of maritime safety that can be left to an uninterrogated post-consultation suck-it-and-see.

In our view, the line taken by the petition to return the issue to the domain of concern of the devolved governments is sustainable.

Given that Scotland faces the closure of the coastguard stations protecting the ports at its capital city and its largest city, we would urge the Scottish government to explore the utility of conducting independent risk and impact assessments of the consequences of the loss of the coastguard stations identified to close.

We are bringing this matter to the attention of relevant MSPs in this part of the world who have Clyde coastline in their constituencies,  writing to, in alphabetical order, Jackie Baillie MSP, Jamie McGrigor MSP, Mike Mackenzie MSP, Michael Russell MSP.

Note: Here is the report of the Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in Wales:FINAL Report National Assembly for Wales Petitions Committee


Extract taken from the MCA Coast News Issue No.8 – 30th January 2012 – Title: Future of the Coastguard

…………….Behind the scenes social media is making a huge impact and gaining much attention for the campaign to Save the Coastguard.

A team of SOS’ers are tweeting away, to inform the general public and celebrity world about the petition, a “Save” website and getting well known figures on board in the process.
Key tweeters and worth a follow are: @Coastguard_SOS – @coastaljoe1 -@UKGaz21 -@mikehillen – @LouPooley. They are bombarding Twitter, pushing for people to sign the petition and informing the world of what is going on, including press articles and comments.

If you are not on Twitter, it is worth signing-up and following some of these people. You may be pleasantly surprised, learn something and add to the weight of the campaign. People from the celebrity world have added their support and are tweeting about it also, such as Timothy and Shane Spall (actor from Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Harry Potter and more recently Spalls at Sea) who is a vocal supporter of the Coastguard. Other actors and even Stephen Fry have re-tweeted the petition. A growing list of tweeting supporters can be found at the SOS website.

The Coastguard SOS team website is at, which provides information on how you can support the campaign.
Let’s get behind this group of people who are working in our interests to Save the Coastguard. All you need is an email address to sign up – go to and simply “follow” people. You can retweet their tweets or type your own in 140 characters. You can search for any Coastguard tweets by using the hash tag # in front of the word Coastguard (#Coastguard) or use that hash tag in your own tweets.


A boost for the Port of Liverpool and a good reminder of why we need our Coastguard rescue centres to protect trade imports


Typhoo Tea is increasing the volume of its UK imports through the Port of Liverpool in a bid to reduce road miles and costs. Having historically shipped 95% of its cargo through southern UK ports, the British tea giant has worked in partnership with Peel Ports since last year and now routes around 30% of the tea it imports via the Port of Liverpool. Subject to major shipping line agreements, it is planned to increase this figure to at least 45% during 2012. Paul McCoy, business manager imports and exports at Peel , said: “Liverpool is the most centrally positioned deep-sea port in the UK, ideally situated to serve all cargo bound for Northern Britain by optimising the supply chain, and we are delighted that this has been recognised by Typhoo Tea. By looking at the integrated ship-to-door logistics costs, we not only optimise the transport leg from port to store, but also offer an efficient onward transport journey as Liverpool is closest to the consumer.”

Keith Packer, chief executive of Typhoo Tea, said: “The partnership with Peel Ports has enabled us to deliver a key part of our sustainability plan and we will continue to work closely with them as our business grows.”


Also good for the environment and carbon footprint too!!


Coastguard SOS campaigners meet Chair of the Transport Select Committee

A new day dawned last Tuesday (31.01.12) when three campaigners travelled to Westminster at the invitation of Louise Ellman MP. In her role of Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Ms Ellman has overseen the 2011 inquiry into the planned closures of UK Coastguard rescue centres.

After welcoming @Coastguard_SOS, @sosmhcoastguard and @Lynnerosie, several key issues were discussed including on-going concerns about the flawed consultation process. As always, concerns must be backed up with facts and this is something for-which we had prepared in advance. The impact on closures of each coastal community of Liverpool, Swansea, Portland, Forth, Brixham, Yarmouth, Clyde and Thames was also discussed along with concerns from serving Coastguard officers and management.

As in any campaign it is unwise to show a complete hand so not all areas of concern that were discussed will be reported here but the public can be reassured that sufficient concerns were raised and taken on board for Ms Ellman to request a full report to be sent to her in order that she may be in a position to discuss the contents further with fellow TSC members and to raise questions in the house.

The message after the meeting is clear: Please continue to lobby your MP’s to represent YOUR views to the UK Shipping Minister; Mike Penning MP. Your MP may not agree with campaigners views but they have a duty to ensure that your concerns are addressed in a proper manner. Regardless of where in the country you live, you still have a voice and your elected member of Parliament must understand and act upon your concerns. Any who agree with the decision to close rescue centres will rely with a rather worn out party line response – Don’t accept it. Demand more from them and if they fail then either contact the Shipping Minister or the Prime Minister directly.

The campaign to save the UK’s Coastguard rescue centres is not over. We are committed to this valuable service and whilst we welcome the decision by HMG to considerably alter their original plans, we nevertheless are steadfast in our aims to secure the future of all stations thereby ensuring continuity, resilience and safety of those using the UK coast.

More reports will be posted shortly once further developments are announced

Coastguard SOS campaigners prepare for Westminster

Some of the campaign team will attend a meeting with the Chair of the Transport Select Committee; Louise Ellman MP on Tuesday 31st January in Westminster.

The basic objective is to highlight the on-going concerns over HM Government’s decision to close 50% of the UK’s Coastguard rescue centres and of the flawed consultation process.

More details of the meeting will be posted in due course.

The Financial Times Limited 2012 January 22, 2012

Olympic demands test telecoms capacity

By Daniel Thomas, Telecoms Correspondent

The Ministry of Defence, Civil Aviation Authority and Home Office are to relinqush communications resources to safeguard telecoms capacity for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The Olympics will be the largest ever test of the UK telecoms industry and Ofcom, its regulator, amid huge demand for communications networks from security and emergency services, organisers and team members as well as for basic functions such as wireless starter guns and timing and scoring systems.

However, the London network is already used at full capacity. Any meltdown of essential systems during the games would become a national embarrassment, particularly as the government is also required to provide international broadcasters with the spectrum needed for their wireless cameras and microphones.

Ceremonial events such as the opening and closing of the games are expected to be the peak for spectrum demand.

Ofcom has spent five years drawing up plans for the six week period of the Olympics, when it estimates that normal requirements will double as it hands out the largest ever number of assignments of wireless frequencies.

Some of the measures have already been quietly tested at other large events such as the Royal Wedding, when communication networks came under similar pressure from global broadcasters and security teams.

Jill Ainscough, Ofcom’s chief operating officer, said: “The UK’s airwaves are already among the most intensively used in the world: the games will significantly increase demand.”

The finalised plans include commandeering any spare public sector communications resources as well as the unused parts of the broadcast spectrum under its control, such as the frequencies previously used by analogue television.

The bulk of the public sector spectrum will be provided on a short-term basis by the Ministry of Defence, as well as from the Home Office, Civil Aviation Authority and the Maritime Coastguard Agency.

Ofcom has carried out technical assessments to ensure the use of the spectrum does not cause operational risks, for example by interfering with air traffic control radar.

The regulator will also use the spectrum capable of next generation mobile signals that is to be sold at auction this year, as well as unlicensed spectrum used typically for WiFi.

It has created a system to manage access and a sensor network to identify interference issues and will double its team of expert radio engineers to 90 during the games.

The UK has never before needed to meet the demands of so many wireless devices that require spectrum, a finite resource only partly in the hands of the public sector.

The challenge was highlighted last week by Jeremy Hunt, culture secretary, who told a conference in London that the Olympics would be a big test for the telecoms sector and Ofcom.

He also warned about the strain on the consumer networks run by the large commercial operators, as potentially tens of thousands of people try to take and send photos from their phones simultaneously at the big events. Experts fear that many around the Olympic site could struggle with reception.

23.01.12 – Since it’s launch 10 days ago the Coastguard campaign website has attracted more than 13,612 hits on the “Home” page. Thank you for visiting and sharing the important message about saving the UK’s Coastguard rescue centres

Contact us at
or via twitter or facebook @Coastguard_SOS



  1. Pingback: Argyll News: JOIN National Coastguard SOS campaigners for Save Clyde Coastguard’s flotilla demo | For Argyll

  2. As a professional experienced (and now unemployed) Coastguard Operations Officer of 18 years service, I wrote an open letter to the Chief Exec of the MCA early in September expressing concerns about the Forth closure and resilience of the communications suite and staffing levels – I was referred to Richard Parkes the project director responsible, who poo poo’d my suggestions that the situation was untenable. My concerns have proved correct – given the recent press coverage which damnifies the equipment failures and staff inexperience.
    The redundancy and HR package which was hashed together was absolutely appalling also however – the situation is dire and was predicted by myself and others but the management have shown their contempt for staff by going ahead. Where’s the Chief Coastguard? gardening leave?, where’s the resilience – none
    I rest my case.

  3. Pingback: progress made to save our coast guard - Page 332- World Sea Fishing Forums | Sea Angling and Sea Fishing Online | Fishing Reports

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