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Coastguard cuts 'put lives at risk' LIVERPOOL CLOSURE LEAVES HOLYHEAD STATION WITH 400-MILE COAST TO COVER.

Byline: TOM DAVIDSON Daily Post Reporter tom.davidson@trinitymirror.com By TOM DAVIDSON

A DECISION to close a coastguard centre will pile more pressure on the service and put lives at risk, according to an MP.

Liverpool coastguard centre closed yesterday with services being transferred to Holyhead Coastguard.

It means the Anglesey crew will now cover more than 400 miles of coastline up to South West Scotland.

The decision will put lives at risk according to Gordon Marsden MP, shadow transport minister.

Mr Marsden said: "Not a single coastguard has transferred from Liverpool to Holyhead.

"That's likely to mean an invaluable knowledge of the local coastline has been lost.

"Meanwhile Holyhead now has to deal with a huge swathe of the English and Scottish west coast."

Before the overhaul, statistics released by the Government showed there were already understaffing issues at Holyhead. In June 2014 Holyhead had 204 hours of understaffed shifts, compared to 120 hours a year earlier. However, because Ministers now cease to publish figures on monthly understaffing at individual coastguard centres, figures for Holyhead in December 2014 are not available.

The Department for Transport has suggested officials may be considering redefining the riskassessed minimum level of staff-assessed staffing.

This could mean a drop in recorded understaffing figures despite no increase in coastguards working.

Dennis O'Connor, who coordinates the national campaign group Coastguard SOS, said: "We are deeply concerned the closure of Liverpool Coastguard will take place this week despite the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) offering no proof lives will not be put at risk.

"Experienced Coastguard officers have been replaced by less qualified recruits who have neither the experience or local knowledge required to carry out effective search and rescue coordination.

"We are gravely concerned about the ability of the MCA to ensure that staff at Holyhead Coastguard will be fully supported whilst coordinating rescues up as far as South West Scotland."

Chief Coastguard for the MCA Richard Martin said: "I'd like to pay tribute to the staff at Liverpool Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre who have served the region with great dedication and professionalism over many years.

"There is no reduction in frontline resources, including Coastguard Rescue Teams, lifeboats, rescue helicopters and other rescue facilities."

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS union which represents Coastguard staff, said: "We remain opposed to the government's closure programme. "Since it was announced the MCA has haemorrhaged staff and the agency is having to take on new recruits because too many experienced coastguard workers have left - something we warned would happen.

"Decades of knowledge about our coastlines, which in an emergency can mean the difference between life and death, are being lost, and ministers seem staggeringly complacent about the reliability of the technology as a replacement."

CAPTION(S):

centre at Crosby closes today and (inset) Holyhead coastguard operations centre | The Liverpool coastguard |

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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:Jan 17, 2015
Words:472
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