Labour MP Katy Clark has reacted with alarm to a significant rise in the number of times the Coastguard centre covering the west coast of Scotland has operated shifts at below the minimum risk-assessed level, potentially putting lives in danger.
The shocking figures were revealed in response to parliamentary questions tabled by Ms Clark. Tory Transport Minister Stephen Hammond confirmed that the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Belfast, which covers the west coast of Scotland since the UK Government closed a similar facility in Greenock, was staffed at below risk-assessed levels on 40 out of 60 shifts in April, and 20 out of 60 shifts in May.
Katy Clark has consistently raised concerns over safety in Scottish waters since the Closure of MRCC Greenock in December 2012. Over 400 shifts at the Belfast centre were staffed at below risk-assessed levels in 2013.
In January of this year Ms Clark secured a meeting with Stephen Hammond who confirmed that new staff had been recruited at MRCC Belfast to help prevent similar occurrences in 2014. However, Katy Clark this week told the3towns, “The increase in unsafely-staffed shifts at MRCC Belfast is cause for considerable concern. Last year the staffing levels at the co-ordination centre were simply unacceptable, but we were led to believe that following the recruitment of new staff these problems would be a thing of the past: the latest figures show that is clearly not the case.”
The MP for North Ayrshire & Arran added, “We are now in the summer months, which is the busiest time for coastguard services as more people take to the water. We cannot have a repeat of last summer where the coastguard centre covering Scotland’s west coast was staffed at below risk-assessed levels on 77-percent of shifts.”
Ms Clark is to seek further answers from the UK Transport Minister “at the earliest opportunity”.