The Government has announced plans to slash the number of UK coastguard stations.
Currently there are 18 stations in addition to a small centre on the Thames in London which will not be affected by the proposed changes.
Under proposals outlined by Shipping Minister Mike Penning, there will be just three 24-hour operational centres – at Aberdeen, in the Southampton/Portsmouth area, and at Dover.
In addition, there will be five sub-centres open during daylight hours – at Swansea, at Falmouth in Cornwall, at Humber in Yorkshire and at either Belfast or Liverpool and at either Stornoway or Shetland in the Scottish islands.
Mr Penning said the Aberdeen and Southampton/Portsmouth centres would be “maritime operations centres capable of managing maritime incidents wherever and whenever they occur and with improved information systems, together with a 24-hour centre at Dover looking over the busy Channel traffic separation scheme”. The sub-centres would be “fully integrated into the national network around the coast and operating during daylight hours”.
He said the Government wanted to “provide high-quality and demanding jobs for our coastguards, with the job weight and pay reflecting the increased demands placed upon them in line with Civil Service pay guidelines”.
It also wanted to strengthen the leadership and support provided to volunteer coastguards in the Coastguard Rescue Service and to “improve present levels of service to the public while reducing costs”.
Mr Penning said: “The Coastguard has a long and distinguished history. But in common with all public services it cannot stand still. Our seas are becoming busier, with larger ships and increasing numbers of offshore renewable energy platforms making key areas of our seas more congested. There are also increasing numbers of people using our beaches, coastlines and seas for leisure activities.”
Launching a 14-week consultation period on the proposals, Mr Penning said the changes would “strengthen the Coastguard service by dealing with potential points of weakness in current structures and adding resilience throughout the system while also maintaining strong regional links and enhancing frontline rescue services through the volunteer Coastguard”.
Among coastguard stations that will be axed under the Government plans are Bangor in Northern Ireland, Brixham in Devon, Holyhead in North Wales and Yarmouth in Norfolk.