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Coastguard axe policy 'has been badly handled'

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: December 12, 2012

Mike Dubens

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A PARLIAMENTARY report has criticised the handling of the programme of closures of coastguard stations across the UK, including Swansea.

The Transport Select Committee yesterday published its second inquiry report into the closures of coastguard rescue centres, which concluded there had been mixed messages about local knowledge of coastguards, and that the proposed closures had undermined staff morale across the service, creating an "alarming" vacancy rate amongst skilled staff.

It also said confusion remained around the role of a new central national Maritime Operations Centre (MOC).

Chair of Transport Committee, MP Louise Ellman, said: "The manner in which changes are being imposed has already damaged the service and it is a great concern that the vacancy rate for skilled staff has doubled since 2010

"Regrettably, the previous shipping minister was ambiguous about the timing of coastguard closures and this has dented staff morale across the service.

"There is a worrying lack of information about what coastguards at the MOC will actually do from day to day or how these new staff will work with local coastguards.

"The Maritime and Coastguard Agency's (MCA) stance in respect of the local knowledge which coastguards in co-ordination centres must have is also confusing and contradictory.

"In a response that the committee described as 'complacent and lacking in detail', Sir Alan Massey, chief executive of the MCA, suggested that local knowledge is not a requirement. The MCA needs to set out its strategy for staff training and articulate its vision of why coastguards in MRCCs need to gain and retain local knowledge".

Swansea's coastguard station in Mumbles, the second busiest in the UK, is one of nine co-ordination centres set to close, and is due to do so by April 2015.

Mike Dubens, publicity officer for Save Swansea Coastguard, said: "The report says what we have been saying, that the whole process has been badly handled.

"There doesn't seem to have been any logic to the way it has been carried out.

"You can't blame existing coastguard staff for leaving the service with all the upheaval going on."

Dennis O'Connor, of the national Coastguard SOS campaign, added: "There is nothing to suggest that the MCA have addressed the significant numbers of staff leaving the service or the apparent lack of interest in any taking up positions at the MOC. Even if they were successful in recruiting new staff, it is likely that this will come at a significant financial cost".

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