MPs Slam Proposals to Close Coastguard Centres

Lives will be lost if the government forges ahead with its “seriously flawed” proposals to modernise the coastguard service, says a cross-party group of MPs.

The six Coalition and five Labour MPs on the Transport Select Committee have slammed plans by ministers to close ten Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres and cut to three the number operating around the clock. The plans include downgrading Falmouth Coastguard to a daytime-only base with evening support for Scilly coming from Hampshire.

Their main concerns are the impact on rescue operations of loss of local knowledge – some Falmouth staff have come to Scilly in the past to get a feeling for our seascape.

The report says the evidence received raises serious concerns that safety will be jeopardised if these proposals proceed and rationalising the number of centres will reduce the quality and rate of exchange of information, particularly at key points when information must be passed swiftly in order to save lives.

The MPs are not convinced that technology can compensate for the loss of local knowledge and they fear the proposals place too much reliance on volunteer coastguards and pay too little attention to the safety of leisure craft and small fishing vessels.

 

They were disappointed that Shipping Minister, Mike Penning, told regular coastguards not to give oral evidence to the committee as they were junior civil servants.

One MP who has voiced her concerns is Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall, whose constituency is covered by the under threat Brixham station. She says the consultation document is ill-thought out and the minister should “tear it up.”

Mrs Murray’s fisherman husband Neil died at sea in March after getting into trouble aboard his trawler.