Plans to Cut Coastguard Stations

The Governments announced plans to cut the number of coastguard stations, leaving just three 24-hour centres, including one in Hampshire either at Southampton or Portsmouth.

Under proposals outlined by Shipping Minister Mike Penning said

the Aberdeen and Southampton/Portsmouth centres would be ``maritime operations centres capable of managing maritime incidents wherever and whenever they occur and with improved information systems, together with a 24-hour centre at Dover looking over the busy Channel traffic separation scheme''.

The sub-centres would be ``fully integrated into the national network around the coast and operating during daylight hours''.

He said the Government wanted to ``provide high-quality and demanding jobs for our coastguards, with the job weight and pay reflecting the increased demands placed upon them in line with Civil Service pay guidelines''.

It also wanted to strengthen the leadership and support provided to volunteer coastguards in the Coastguard Rescue Service and to ``improve present levels of service to the public while reducing costs''.

Mr Penning said: ``The Coastguard has a long and distinguished history. But in common with all public services it cannot stand still.

``Our seas are becoming busier, with larger ships and increasing numbers of offshore renewable energy platforms making key areas of our seas more congested. There are also increasing numbers of people using our beaches, coastlines and seas for leisure activities.''

He went on: ``The current organisation of the Coastguard - which dates back some 40 years - is not well placed to respond to these challenges. The lack of national co-ordination between the centres can result in limited resilience and an uneven distribution of the workload, especially during busy periods.''

Launching a 14-week consultation period on the proposals, Mr Penning said the changes would ``strengthen the Coastguard service by dealing with potential points of weakness in current structures and adding resilience throughout the system while also maintaining strong regional links and enhancing frontline rescue services through the volunteer Coastguard''.

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