Sailors Say No! to Coastguard Closures

That is the overwhelming message from members of the UK’s sailing community who completed the First Class Sailing survey on the proposed closure of two UK coastguard stations.

They are worried that when these key Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres at Portland (Dorset) and Brixham (Devon) are merged into a super centre based in Fareham (Hampshire) local knowledge will be lost and response times will increase.

The comments below came from sailors who use the area, from people who sail but not in these waters and also people connected to the coast guard service, such as this:

"As an Ex Watch Manager and a total of 20 years Service on the East and West Coast and I fully appreciate the need for in depth local knowledge. I also believe the powers that be are placing far too much faith in technology. Computers can fail and that will cause all sorts of major problems, I have been there and experienced the problems caused for just one District, imagine the failure in these super Districts maybe 3 or 4 time larger than the current average one!!"

Concern was also expressed by people who use the sea for a living:

"As a local dive boat skipper operating from Swanage, there have been many times that I have needed to contact the coastguard, normally to get assistance or a communications link to assist divers who have got themselves into difficulty. The concern I have over the loss of these facilities is that we will once again lose the local knowledge and expertise. When will governments learn that doing it on the cheap costs lives."

Another telling observation comes from someone who has observed the coastguard service in action: "I have spent many years boat fishing on Portland waters and have witnessed the response of the sea rescue services on several occasions. The local knowledge of the coast guard is invaluable and saves lives. Closing of these centers will lead to slower response times, loss of local knowledge and ultimately loss of life."

Help spread the news by tweeting this:

Sailors Say "No!" to Coastguard Closures http://goo.gl/U4g47a a survey by @firstclassail #coastguardsos

With Portland expected to close in September 2014 and Brixham shortly after in November, time is not on campaigner’s side - and they have been trying really hard to get some attention from politicians and the media.

In early 2014 a 100,000 person petition was handed into Downing Street and these proposed changes have been debated in parliament through Richard Drax MP.

Slowly the media is responding to the natural concerns of sea-going Britons who want to be safe at sea, with the Daily Express recently giving the campaign some attention "Coastguard staff losses putting lives in danger".

This survey was organised by First Class Sailing, a training school based in Southampton and on the East Coast and is run by Principal, Charlie Tulloch.

"We were quite surprised that so many people felt so strongly about these closures and the variety of reasons they gave for being concerned." Charlie said. "Sailing lets you appreciate the power and majesty of the sea, but when it goes wrong and quick assistance is needed, that is when people realise how much we rely on the coast guard, both to aid in saving life and preventing environmental disasters."

"Reducing the service and losing that local knowledge is likely to cause more problems, potentially fatal ones, rather than solve any. We are still a maritime nation. Many people don’t realise a large percentage of our essential goods and commodities come in via the ports."

"Add to that the amount of people who enjoy using the sea for recreation and travel, plus our seafaring heritage and you think that we should be raising levels of safety along the coast rather than reducing them."

But what is the solution? And if the closures were to be stopped what would the sailing community like to see happen?

For Charlie Tulloch, the answer is obvious: "The abandoning of this plan is the first positive step, an increase in funds for better equipment at a local level would be the next. The third is a raising of the education of the sailing community with a concerted effort to ensure all people who use the sea, have a better understanding of their responsibilities."

This sentiment is also echoed in the comments posted during the survey, all of which were left under guarantee of anonymity:

"My family have served in the Royal and Merchant Navy, my grandfather was in the coastguard. It makes sense to keep these centres open with staff with local knowledge of currents, tides, hazards, sandbanks and tidal flows. The centres are already understaffed therefore putting lives at risk. It makes for safety concerns of the highest category if any centres are closed. It puts lives at risk."

"I think these cuts are reckless, unsafe and unnecessary. The government has the resources to maintain and improve coastguard and lifeboat services. The fact that we still rely for charity to ensure safety at sea is scandalous. Let's remember how many people use our coasts for summer leisure who have little knowledge of safety issues and should expect the support of the government to protect them."

"I think closing the stations is one of the most stupid ideas our government have had. We are an island or has that changed with joining the EU."

"We spend hours and hours, days and days on the sea in all our Spring/summers. We've seen the teams in action so so often EVERY year. These centres are invaluable and necessary . I simply cannot put into words the outrage this is causing. Furious Dorset family."

"I am a keen diver and take part in other water sports as well, I think if these services are withdrawn locally the fatalitys are going to increase and with the lack of local knowledge its going to lead to disasters "

"As a former Rating in the Royal Navy I know first hand the importance of the COASTGUARD and other Rescue Services. Cuts in these services based on finance, which it is, is proof of plain ignorance and crass ineptitude"

"MRCC BRIXHAM is among the BUSIEST Maritime Coastguard Rescue Coordination Centres in the UK and dealt with 1,086 incidents in 2013. It is madness to close it."

"I think you under estimate the value of these centres, which are paramount for public safety. If you want to end up like the NHS by cutting costs, lives and jobs will be lost. I health screened the Brixham guys in 2008 and could not praise enough their dedication, bravery, and single minded professionalism. Putting their necks on the line voluntarily is something to be valued. Think about it."

"This service has kept people who use our waters safe for many many years. This is no way to treat not only the Coastguards or the men and women who use our waters, what ever their nationality. Everybody needs their wonderful service that has proven itself many times over to be life savers ! I for one are proud of the Coastguards !"

The survey was completed online by 48 people, 47 agreed with the question with 26 of the sailors coming from the area affected.

The original question was: In 2014 the UK Government will be closing down the Portland and Brixham Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres. Do you think they should keep these centres running?

If you have something to add please post it on our Facebook or Google+ page. And if you want to find out more about the campaign visit coastguardsos.com

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