‘Closure could cost lives’

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Coastal watch volunteers have warned the proposed loss of Liverpool Coastguard could cost lives at sea.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has announced its plan for the closure of the station at Liverpool, which currently deals with calls related to the Fylde coast, in January 2015.

Liverpool will be closed alongside other stations to be replaced by a new national operations centre in Hampshire.

But Ken Harcombe, from the National Coastwatch Institute’s Rossall Point observatory, says the closure could cause lifeboat crews to have slower response times to incidents.

He said: “It’s really difficult to guess what’s going to happen.

“Our concern would be if there was any delay dealing with someone 300 miles away then that could cost lives.

“We’re quite keen to maintain some sort of local communication with Liverpool really.”

The Coastguard SOS campaign group, which is opposed to the plan, has also spoken out on the subject.

Spokesman Dennis O’Connor said: “It is outrageous that the MCA have confirmed the timescale for the station closures.

“Stations located at Forth, Clyde and Yarmouth have already closed despite clear assurances to MPs that none would close until the new system had been fully tested for operational robustness and resilience.”

Sir Alan Massey, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said: “This is an exciting time. We are moving into a new era for HM Coastguard that will reinforce the ability of our staff to ensure the safety of seafarers and the public.

“We want to continue being a world-class organisation that is committed to preventing loss of life, improving maritime safety, and protecting the marine environment.

“At the same time, our Coastguards can look forward to more satisfying and better rewarded careers.

“We realise that this whole change programme will be tough for some of our people, particularly those who feel that they have no future with HM Coastguard.

“We recognise that, and will do our very best to work with every individual to ensure they are properly equipped and supported in making the best decision for them.”