Coastguard station closures ‘not fixed in stone’

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PLANS to shut down more than half of the country’s coastguard stations are not “fixed in stone”, says a Government minister.

Shipping minister Mike Penning has made reassurances in Parliament that the plans to close 10 of the 18 local stations - leaving only three open on a 24-hour basis - are not concrete and will be amended in response to anxieties expressed by staff.

Under the current proposals, the Bridlington HM Coastguard centre, in East Yorkshire, which covers the Hartlepool and east Durham area, would remain open in daylight hours, along with four other centres, including Swansea, Falmouth in Cornwall, at either Belfast or Liverpool and at either Stornoway or Shetland.

The proposals suggest the number of coastguard centres open 24 hours a day would be reduced from 18 to just three - one at Aberdeen, another in the Southampton or Portsmouth area and a further centre at Dover.

Mr Penning has proposed to concentrate operations in two large Maritime Operations Centres.

His comments came as serving coastguards told the House of Commons Transport Committee of their worries that the changes will result in a loss of expertise and poorer co-ordination of search and rescue attempts.