Coastguard shifts ‘not at safe levels’

Pic Colin Lane'Merseyside from the air....Blundellsands & coastguard station
Pic Colin Lane'Merseyside from the air....Blundellsands & coastguard station

A third of all shifts at the main base for sea rescues on the Fylde coast are staffed below the level which is necessary to safely deal with emergencies, it has been claimed.

Twenty out of 60 shifts at Liverpool Maritime Rescue and Co-ordination Centre were staffed below risk-assessed levels in September, the equivalent of 240 hours, Government figures show.

The levels were below what is suggested to be the safest number of staff on duty to deal with emergencies, and compares to seven out of 60 shifts at Swansea and 34 out of 60 shifts at Belfast and Humber.

The figures were revealed by transport minister Stephen Hammond following a question which was put to the Government by Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South and shadow minister for 

Chris Jameson, from the Fylde coast’s Coastguard SOS pressure group, which campaigns to safeguard the future of coastguard stations, said: “The safety of the public has to be brought into question because the situation can’t guarantee the level of safety the public has enjoyed in the past.

“Everyone will realise that it can’t be as good as it has been in the past and it’s belittling if the Maritime Coastguard Agency plays this down because we can see there’s a huge crisis happening.

“This is a dire situation and I wonder why we haven’t had a catastrophe already or how long it will last before something serious happens.”

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “Currently, where a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) is experiencing reduced staffing levels, established ‘pairing’ arrangements are used.

“This means each MRCC can be connected to at least one other MRCC that will provide mutual support.

“Under the future structure, the introduction of the ‘National Network’ as part of the modernisation of HM Coastguard will enable the National Maritime Operations Centre and all other centres to coordinate any incident around the UK coast.”