The UK Government have announced the closure of the Yarmouth Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre will take place by 1st May 2013

The fight to save Yarmouth 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 Great Yarmouth / east coast area. If you are interested in learning more please email your contact details and information to Dennis O’Connor  info@coastguardsos.com

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

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?

 

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”.   

Updated: MPs say coastguard centre closures at Great Yarmouth and Walton-on-the-Naze have left staff ‘disillusioned and confused’

By Chris Harris Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CAMPAIGNERS have urged the Government to heed advice from an influential committee of MPs and stop any further coastguard station closures.

On Monday, the Transport Select Committee criticised Whitehall’s reform of the coastguard service, which includes plans to close centres at Great Yarmouth and Walton-on-the-Naze.

It said the reforms had left staff “disillusioned and confused” and “drained talent from the service”.

The Government’s proposals include shutting stations at the Clyde, Portland, Liverpool, Yarmouth, Brixham, Walton and Swansea. Forth coastguard station in Scotland has already closed.

The Government wants there to be one maritime operations centre in the Solent area, Hampshire.

It would have back up from the Dover station in Kent and eight coastguard stations around the country, including Humber which would cover the area looked after by Yarmouth, which is set to close on May 1 next year.

 Dover would cover the area currently looked after by Walton.

The report by the Transport Select Committee concluded: “In our view the loss of experienced coastguards is one of the most significant risks to the successful implementation of the Government’s reform programme. Years of uncertainty about the shape of the service, station closures and low morale have acted to drain talent from the service.

“We were concerned by the comments by Sir Alan Massey about the small number of coastguard stations in other countries reflect a view in Government that there should be more coastguard centre closures in the foreseeable future. We call on the Government to rule this out and confirm that the new arrangements for the service are intended to last for a generation.”

Dennis O’Connor, co-ordinator of the National Coastguard SOS Campaign, said: “We echo the recommendations of the committee and call upon the prime minister to stop the closure plan with immediate effect. 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.

Transport minister Stephen Hammond said: “Safety remains our top priority. 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.”

 

Concerns over Great Yarmouth coastguard centre which covers Norfolk and Suffolk taken to House of Commons

Anthony CarrollFriday, October 26, 2012
11:59 AM

 A Transport Select Committee is looking at the government’s proposals to close a number of coastguard rescue centres – including the one at Hvenbridge House in Great Yarmouth.

Campaigners fear this will put safety at risk because vital local knowledge will be lost, although the Government believes the service will be improved and modernised.

The select committee recently met representatives from various organisations with concerns before questioning UK Shipping Minister Stephen Hammond and Maritime and Coastguard Agency CEO Sir Alan Massey.

Dennis O’Connor, of the National Coastguard SOS Campaign, said it was clear the committee had “grave concerns” about the plans. “This is the second such inquiry the committee has conducted 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,” he said.

But Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey said she had sought reassurances there would be effective cover. “More resources will be put into our local coastguard offices that actually carry out the rescues,” she said. “Safety will be a top priority.”

 

Suffolk Coast: Campaigners urged not to give up the fight against coastguard changes

 By Craig Robinson – East Anglia Daily Times – Thursday, October 4, 2012
CAMPAIGNERS have stepped up the battle against a controversial shake-up of coastguard services.A new group has been formed in a bid to support the under threat Havenbridge House in Great Yarmouth. Its closure, expected next year, is part of a Government move to reduce the number of coastguard stations in the UK from 19 to 11. The Thames Coastguard station at Walton-on-the-Naze will also be axed.

They will be replaced by a maritime operations centre in Hampshire – officially unveiled in July – that will handle emergency calls from across the UK.

But campaigners are urging people not to give up the fight and to continue to press Whitehall for a U-turn. Great Yarmouth resident Matthew Smith contacted the National Coastguard SOS Campaign Group and offered to set up a local branch.

He said: “Local knowledge is key for the coastguard and if you take away local stations then you lose that.” Mr Smith, who runs the UK Independence Party in Great Yarmouth, said he was motivated by more than just politics. “A number of people we have spoken to are concerned about the closure,” he said. “However it’s more than just a political point – lives will be put at risk. We are very happy to work with any party who feels this terrible idea should be scrapped.”

The House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee (TSC) is investigating the closure plan and how the changes are being implemented.

Dennis O’Connor, of the National Coastguard SOS Campaign, said: “We are delighted there is a fresh groundswell of opposition and we intend to offer our full support to the new campaign group as we fight for the retention of the station at Yarmouth. The key message is that it’s not too late. The decision by the TSC to further investigate the closure plan is an indication of the level of concern.”

When he announced the shake-up former Shipping Minister Mike Penning said the changes would create a 21st century service. He told the Commons he understood concerns but the shake-up would deliver a modernised, nationally networked, fully resilient service that would give better support to volunteers and front-line rescue capabilities.

For details on the Great Yarmouth group contact info@coastguardsos.com.

 

Norfolk coastguard campaigners pin hopes on Government plans failing risk assessment

By TOM BRISTOW
Monday, February 27, 2012

 

Campaigners hoping to save Great Yarmouth’s coastguard station are pinning their hopes on the Government’s closure plans falling foul of health and safety rules.

At a meeting at county hall tonight, county councillor for South Smallburgh, Paul Rice, called on the Government to carry out a risk assessment before shutting the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre at Havenbridge House.

The meeting, called by councillor Rice to bring opponents of the closure plan together, saw coastguards, scuba divers and boat users come together in an attempt to save the station.

The planned closure, expected next year, is part of a move to reduce the number of centres in the UK from 19 to 11.

That would mean emergencies will be handled by control centre staff as far away as Humberside.

The Welsh Assembly has called for a risk assessment on the nationwide closures and the Scottish Parliament is also understood to be considering a similar move.

Councillor Rice said: “We’re asking for a proper risk assessment. I think we could get it (the closure) reversed based on that.”

And Colin Mead from Sheringham Coastwatch slammed the plan as “sheer lunacy”.

Last month Norfolk County Council passed a motion by councillor Rice, calling on the Government to reconsider its decision.

But amid fears that shipping minister Mike Penning has already made up his mind about the centre, those opposing the closure said lives would be lost if the station shut.

They fear the loss of local knowledge and problems over regional accents would mean distressed crews calling stations in other parts of the country who would struggle to respond to emergencies.

And as reported in yesterday’s EDP Great Yarmouth could benefit from £50bn of business sparked by wind farms in the North Sea which would mean more traffic off the coast.

Norfolk’s uniqueness in having Broads’ boaters as well as North Sea shipping to look after was also highlighted.

 

 

 

 

Bid to gather support for coastguard station battle

By Emily Dennis
Saturday, February 11, 2012

A campaign to save Great Yarmouth’s coastguard station is to hold an open meeting to gather support.

Last month Norfolk County Council unanimously passed a motion by Paul Rice, county councillor for South Smallburgh, calling on the government to reconsider its decision to close the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

Mr Rice said anyone interested in getting involved with or supporting the move to reverse the government’s decision to close the control room 
is invited to an open meeting at County Hall on Monday, February 27, at 6pm.

He said: “We would like any individual, club or organisation with maritime links such as port users, local companies, yacht clubs for example to come along. Also, of course, any Broads users are welcome to attend as they have a vested interest in keeping the control room open too.

“The purpose of the meeting will be to get those interested together and decide on the best way to take our campaign forward.

“I look forward to seeing people on the evening.”

Mr Rice said the decision to close the Havenbridge House control made no sense at all.

“To my mind local knowledge saves lives. There are numerous examples of where this is the case, including only last year when local knowledge helped save the life of a girl buried in the sand.

“What makes no sense either is that there is every likelihood of an increase in demand with more traffic to wind farms, ship to ship oil transfer off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast and increased traffic from Harwich to Zeebrugge.

“You can also add the fact that there is a big increase of ‘stay-cations’ on the Broads and to local beaches to the mix.”

Anyone interested in backing the campaign but who is unable to attend, or who would like further details can contact Mr Rice on 07920 286622 or email paul.rice@norfolk.gov.uk.

emily.dennis@archant.co.uk

il to lobby government to try to save Great Yarmouth coastguard

by DAN GRIMMER Public affairs correspondent
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Norfolk County Council is to lobby the government to reverse its decision to close the coastguard station at Great Yarmouth because of fears a loss of local knowledge could cost lives.

The Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, based at Havenbridge House, is to close as part of government plans to reduce the number of centres in the UK from 19 to 11.

That will mean emergencies will be handled by control centre staff as far away as Humberside or Southampton.

But, at a meeting of Norfolk County Council’s full council yesterday, it was agreed that County Hall would call on the government to think again, following a motion put by Paul Rice, Conservative county councillor for South Smallburgh and a former coastguard rescue officer.

He said: “A core role of this council is to speak up for the people of Norfolk on matters crucial to the wellbeing of this county.

“In this case, the county council believes the maxim that ‘local knowledge saves lives’ has been demonstrated time and time again across our coastline.

“This council must work hard to retain local knowledge within Norfolk and thus safeguard the wellbeing of our residents and those who work off our shores.”

Colleen Walker, Labour county councillor for Gorleston’s Magdalen ward, welcomed the motion.

She said: “We feel this would cost more lives and put the safety of British waters on our coastline in severe jeopardy.

“Let us hope and pray that for the tiny savings they are making this will not cost us a life.”

Tom Garrod, Conservative county councillor for Yarmouth North and Central Division and a volunteer crew member of Caister lifeboat, said: “It is vital for our crew to have someone on the end of the radio who knows about the current situation.”

Richard Howitt, the Norfolk and Suffolk Euro MP, has led a campaign against the closure, warning that the decision would lead to a disaster.

The Yarmouth station is set to close at an unspecified date between now and March 2015.

dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

 If you are part of the campaign team fighting to save the MRCC at Yarmouth please get in touch with us atinfo@coastguardsos.com

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