Concerns voiced at severe lack of coastguard staff

Concerns are growing over the safety of the seaside after it was revealed that the country’s coastguards are seriously understaffed.

Dover Coastguard has failed to meet the minimum staff requirements an average of 58.1 per cent so far this year, with a shocking peak of 91.9 per cent during August 2014.

These figures compare with an average of 49 per cent in 2013 and 46.8 in 2012.

The best figures for this year came in January and February, when Dover Coastguard failed to meet the agreed minimum risk assessed level of staff on 30.6 and 30.4 per cent of shifts respectively.

The worrying information comes from a pressure group called Coastguard SOS, which opposes the closure of Coastguard maritime rescue coordination centres (MRCCs).

The group obtained data from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency through the Freedom of Information Act. Statistics show a haemorrhaging of experienced coastguard staff, resulting in the closure of six stations since 2012.

Speaking on behalf of the campaign group, Dennis O’Connor said, “It is unquestionable that the latest understaffing figures prove the service is in a deepening crisis and safety around the UK coastline is being compromised. It is unacceptable that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) are being allowed to continue to undermine the exceptional search and rescue capabilities of HM Coastguard knowing full well that the crisis is deepening.”

A spokesperson for the MCA said, “Implementation of the Coastguard modernisation programme started in September 2014 and transition continues progressively through to December 2015, when Dover Coastguard will migrate into the new national network.

“The national network will enable the National Maritime Operations Centre and all the other ten Coastguard Operations Centres to coordinate any incident around the UK coast. This means workload and incidents can be managed locally with a much better support network available nationally.

“In the meantime, where stations are experiencing reduced staffing levels, senior management closely monitor the situation and take appropriate mitigation action to manage risks, utilising “pairing” arrangements and other support measures as necessary. There remains in place a recruitment campaign for the new Coastguard roles.”