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terça-feira, 22 de novembro de 2011

Minister unveils revised cuts to UK coastguard centres

Coastguard helicopter (Pic: MCA) The government says its proposals will modernise the service

Several UK coastguard centres previously earmarked for closure have been given a reprieve - but eight will still go, with a loss of 159 jobs.

Both Shetland and Stornoway will remain in operation - a change to original plans which would have seen one shut.

Clyde, Swansea and Liverpool will be among those centres to close.

Shipping Minister Mike Penning said he knew there would be "disappointment", but the changes were necessary to create a 21st Century service.

The government originally wanted to cut the number of 24-hour coastguard centres from 18 to three but, following an outcry, agreed to look again at the plans.

At present, the 18 operate in nine pairs covering overlapping geographical areas.

Under the revised plans, at least one of each pair will be retained, and in the case of Stornoway and Shetland, both will remain open.

'Limited resilience'

The co-ordination centres at Forth, Clyde, Great Yarmouth, Liverpool, Thames, Swansea, Brixham and Portland will close by March 2015.

Centres to close

  • Brixham
  • Clyde
  • Forth
  • Great Yarmouth
  • Liverpool
  • Portland
  • Swansea
  • Thames

The centre at Solent will be replaced by the new Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) in Fareham, in Hampshire, which will be housed in the vacant Fire Control Centre building.

A back-up MOC will be established at the existing Dover centre and both this and Fareham will operate on a 24-hour basis.

Centres at Falmouth, Milford Haven, Holyhead, Belfast, Stornoway, Shetland, Aberdeen and Humber will be retained, as will the smaller London facility that manages the tidal Thames.

The government says the current system comprises "dispersed centres with no network of national integration" and therefore has "very limited resilience in the event of high demand or technical problems".

Mr Penning said the changes would result in a "modernised, nationally networked, fully resilient" service. He said that retaining one of each of the paired stations would ensure that the local knowledge vital to protect each area would be retained.

But shadow shipping minister Jim Fitzpatrick said: "I have no doubt these proposals are at least partly driven by financial constraints."

He added: "In a number of communities out there now there will be real disappointment and even anger today."


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