The UK Government via the Maritime & Coastguard Agency have announced the closure of the Maritime Rescue  Co-ordination Centre at Portland will take place during September 2014


The fight to save Portland Coastguard rescue coordination centre 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 the Weymouth area. If you are interested in learning more please email your contact details and information to

If you would like to sign the petition against closure of the Coastguard helicopter base at Portland please follow this link



Portland Coastguard control centre to close in September 2014



Portland Coastguard control centre to close in September 2014 Portland Coastguard control centre to close in September 2014


DORSET’S Portland Coastguard control centre will close in September next year, it has been announced.


The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said yesterday that the closure will coincide with the launch of the new National Maritime Operations Centre in Fareham.


Campaigner Roger Macpherson called the situation ‘ludicrous’.


He said: “This was inevitable. The centre was never something we could save as the final decision had been made, but I still think it is a retrograde step.


“This is the hub of all coastguard operations in the area. The people who staff it decide what response is needed – whether it is the helicopter, landrover, lifeboats – and they have the local knowledge to know how long it will take to get there and whether there are any difficult currents to cope with.


“All that is going to be lost.”


The move is part of the Government’s plan to modernise the coastguard service across the country.


A spokesman for the MCA said that the Fareham centre will open before the closure of the Portland and Solent bases, and that staff and facilities would be rigorously tested before the centre is launched.


Chief Executive of the MCA Sir Alan Massey said: “This is an exciting time. We are moving into a new era for HM Coastguard that will reinforce the ability of our staff to ensure the safety of seafarers and the public.


“We want to continue being a world-class organisation that is committed to preventing loss of life, improving maritime safety, and protecting the marine environment.


“At the same time, our Coastguards can look forward to more satisfying and better rewarded careers.”


He added: “We realise that this whole change programme will be tough for some of our people, particularly those who feel that they have no future with HM Coastguard.


“We recognise that, and will do our very best to work with every individual to ensure they are properly equipped and supported in making the best decision for them.”


National campaigner Dennis O’Connor, of Coastguard SOS, said the closure of the Portland centre is ‘even more contentious’ than the closure of other centres across the country.


He added: “I fear this will have a serious impact on the Dorset coast, which is one of the biggest tourism destinations in the UK.


“An incredible risk is being taken here.”


THE fight to save the Portland Coastguard rescue helicopter will continue despite the news, Mr Macpherson has pledged.


Around 100,000 people have now signed a petition urging the Government to rethink the decision. The service is due to be axed in 2017.


Mr Macpherson said campaigners are discussing plans to take the petition to 10 Downing Street.


South Dorset MP Richard Drax to give evidence to government

12:00pm Friday 26th October 2012 in News

SOUTH Dorset MP Richard Drax has been called to give evidence to a government committee examining the proposed closure of the Portland Coastguard helicopter.

Mr Drax will give evidence to the inquiry by the Commons Transport Select Committee on Monday, November 5.

Last month, Mr Drax submitted a 12-page report on the proposed changes to the coast-guard service being implemented in the area and their potential impact on search and rescue.

His report concluded that it would be ‘sheer folly’ to cut the Portlandhelicopter.

He said: “It’s good news and I hope it means they’re taking a critical approach to a decision which could adversely affect the lives of all of who live on, work on or visit the south coast.”

Mr Drax is campaigning to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to save the helicopter. Visit uk/petitions/36619 to sign.


22.10.12 By Catherine Bolardo of the Dorset Echo

FEAR’S are growing for the future of Dorset’s lifesavers.

Coastguard campaigners say they are concerned about staffing levels in coastguard stations and are calling for the government to relook at plans to close eight local stations by March 2015.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has said that Portland station, based on Weymouth harbourside, will be closing in the 2013/14 financial year under current plans aimed at modernising the service.

Portland and other stations in the south will be replaced with a state-of-the-art Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) at Fareham, Hampshire in 2014.

Portland Coastguardhelicopter also faces the axe by 2017.

A report from Coastguard SOS stated that between June 2011 and June 2012 Portland station had been operating with 20 staff when they should have an operational level of 25.

But the MCA have said that there are ‘no manning issues’ currently and that Portland coastguard is only just under its staffing hours due to part-time hours and is operating normally.

But campaigners say they are worried that understaffing, both past and possibly in the future, could lead to more pressure being applied to staff and said they want to see an ‘immediate cessation’ to the plans to close coastguard stations.

Dennis O’Connor from Coast-guard SOS said: “Understaffing at any maritime rescue coordination centre is unacceptable.

“It increases the pressure on watch managers and staff and significantly increases the risk to recreational and commercial coast users.”

He added that campaigners were worried that the government planned to ‘rush through’ plans to close coastguard stations like Portland, before the ‘robustness’ of replacement supercentres called Maritime Operations Centres have been fully tested.

A spokesman for the MCA said: “The MCA currently has no intention to close Portland coastguard station before the MOC is fully tested and operational.

“All staff at Portland will have an opportunity to apply for positions at the MOC and other Coastguard stations which are remaining open at the same time as all other affected staff within the MCA.”

She added: “The MCA is still actively recruiting staff into vacancies which do occur and this will continue so that the old and new structures merge together without compromising public safety.”

Closure Plans Branded ‘Crazy And Ridiculous’ Coastguard campaigners have called the plans to close Porland MRCC and Portland helicopter ‘crazy and ‘ludicrous’.

Diver Mark Carroll had been diving with Paul Taylor off Portland when they were caught in a fast-moving tide and swept away from their dive boat last year.

They were found by the Portland Coastguard helicopter working together with the lifeboat and the Portland MRCC.

Mr Carroll, from Kent, said he felt lucky that the coastguards had been there and had local knowledge to know where to look for them. He said: “Without them I don’t think we would be here now.”

Mr Carroll said it was local knowledge about tides and winds that helped their rescuers pinpoint them by taking the search out of the designated search area.

Nigel Cresswell, skipper of the Dajo, which was assisted by the coastguards and lifeboats twice earlier this month, said that the service was very important and should be kept.

He said: “The thing is where they are positioned is quite critical. They are on the end of two bays there.”

He added: “I think any coastal service like that should be improved and increased rather than taken back.”



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.”

If you would like to sign the petition against closure of the Coastguard helicopter base at Portland please follow this link

THE Dorset Echo is backing a campaign to Save Our Lifesavers. Local people want our lifesavers to stay local and are joining the fight for the south coast’s 24-hour coastguard supercentre to be built in the borough.

Portland Coastguard Station campaign: Save Our Lifesavers

Saturday 16th July 2011 in

THE Dorset Echo is backing a campaign to Save Our Lifesavers.

Local people want our lifesavers to stay local and are joining the fight for the south coast’s 24-hour coastguard supercentre to be built in the borough.

Following the devastating news that the Portland Coastguard Station is to be axed, we are backing campaigners who are calling for the skilful men and women who coordinate life-saving responses to remain in this area.

Seafarers, councillors and coastguards are all throwing their weight behind the Save Our Lifesavers campaign.

A new council plan is to be submitted to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) calling for a 24-hour Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) to be built in the borough.

The location of the MOC is still to be decided by the MCA and comments on the coastguard stations closure are being accepted until October 6.

Our readers can help by filling out a petition that calls for the MCA to build the supercentre in Wey-mouth or Portland and by commenting on the MCA website.

A locally-based MOC would bring more jobs to the area and keep our coastguards and their expertise in the borough beyond the Olympics.

Borough councillor Dominic Lonsdale, who is also a coastguard, said: “I am delighted that the Echo has chosen to back this campaign.

“Establishing the National Maritime Operations Centre in this area is not just a campaign for the residents of Weymouth & Portland but one that everyone in Dorset should support.

“The local council has done a lot of work on regeneration and this project would be a major part of the continuing development of the area as a centre of maritime excellence.

“We all hope that the MCA and the Transport Minister will back away from the proposals to re-organise Her Majesty’s Coastguard but if that is not to be then we must look forward to ensure we obtain the best result for Weymouth and Portland and for Dorset.”

Seafarer Gareth Peaston, former commodore of the Weymouth-based Royal Dorset Yacht Club, said he thinks the government axing of Portland Coastguard Station is ‘absolutely bonkers’.

He added: “Local knowledge is everything. Portland Coast-guard is the most friendly and wonderful coastguard I have I have dealt with. To lose them would be a travesty.”

 If you are part of the campaign team fighting to save the MRCC at Portland please get in touch with us at

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