Shipping Minister gives go-ahead

Plans to modernize the Coastguard by closing eight stations and creating a national ‘network’ have been confirmed by Shipping Minister Mike Penning.  

Coastguard stations at Forth, Clyde, Great Yarmouth, Liverpool, Thames, Swansea, Brixham and Portland will all close by March 2015.

Instead the networked system will have ‘supercentre’, called a Maritime Operations Centre, manned by 96 staff working shifts at Fareham, Hants.

They will evaluate and analyse the ‘national maritime picture’ so that the MCA can plan strategies for the Coastguard in the future. The MOC will replace the Lee-on-Solent centre, and will be backed up by the existing Dover coordination centre which will be manned by 28 staff who will also handle the Channel Navigation Information Service. Both will operate round-the-clock.

In addition to this there will be eight Coastguard Centres, or MRCCs, operating 24 hours a day at Falmouth, Milford Haven, Holyhead, Belfast, Stornoway, Shetland, Aberdeen and Humber which will be connected to the MOC. The smaller London station located in the Port of London Authority’s building in Gravesend, Kent is also retained with six staff and also operating 24 hours a day.

New coastal operational hubs – of the Coastguard Rescue Service, the sub-sections of the MRCCs – will be established at the existing sites at Liverpool, Swansea and Thames, as well as in the Clyde area, and through the further development of the MCA’s site at the former HMS Daedalus at Lee-on-Solent.

The Government first launched a consultation on Coastguard modernisation in December 2010.

Then it was planned to close 10 of the 18 Coastguard stations, but after campaigners launched a petition to halt closures this was reduced to the eight now being axed.

Mr Penning said: ‘This is a blueprint for a 21st century Coastguard that commands even greater respect and it will provide an organisation of which coastguards themselves and all of us can be justly proud.’