Only three 24-hour stations to operate
The number of coastguard stations open around the clock is to be slashed from 18 to three, the government has confirmed.
Shipping Minister Mike Penning has outlined the proposals, leaked earlier this week, which will leave 24-hour centres open only at Dover, Aberdeen and Southampton/Portsmouth.
A further five centres will open in daylight hours at Swansea, Falmouth and Humber and either Belfast or Liverpool and Stornoway or Shetland.
These will leave huge slabs of the UK coastline without a dedicated rescue centre. For example plans to axe Yarmouth station in Norfolk will leave no centre on the east coast between Dover and Humber, which are separated by 200 miles.
But Mr Penning insisted that 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’.
He 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.’
Mr Penning said the Aberdeen and Southampton/Portsmouth centres would be ‘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’.
He said the sub-centres would be ‘fully integrated into the national network around the coast and operating during daylight hours’.
Other stations to be axed include Bangor, Brixham and Holyhead.
Meanwhile the government delayed its plans for an announcement on the privatisation of search and rescue services.