Friday, 31 January 2014

Safety concerns over Coastguard shortages

Local MP Katy Clark has met with the UK Transport Minister Stephen Hammond to raise her long-standing concerns over inadequate staffing levels at the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Belfast, which now has responsibility for safety in waters off the west of Scotland.  Belfast took on the role last year after the UK Government closed the Clyde base at Greenock.

The meeting was arranged after Parliamentary Questions tabled by Ms Clark revealed the MRCC had been staffed at below safe levels on over 400 shifts in 2013.  During the summer months, typically the busiest for the Maritime Coastguard Agency, the Belfast facility had been understaffed on 77% of shifts.

Katy Clark said, “There is real concern amongst west coast MPs, as well as MPs from the north-west of England, about the way in which the closure of MRCC Clyde was handled.  The number of understaffed shifts at MRCC Belfast in 2013 was completely unacceptable and it is important that the Government now guarantee this is not repeated in 2014.”

Despite UK Government claims that additional staff have been recruited to the Maritime Coastguard Agency, Ms Clark says stations serving the west coast “do not seem to be benefiting”.

The Labour MP for North Ayrshire & Arran said the Transport Minister must “provide proper reassurance that seafarers along Scotland’s west coast can once again have confidence in the safety arrangements in place to protect them in the event of an emergency.”

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