View Full Version : Council leaders demand rethink over tugs

Davie Tait
21st January 2011, 19:39

Friday, 21 January 2011 11:19

A DELEGATION of Highlands and Islands local authority leaders is heading for London, demanding a halt to plans for the withdrawal of emergency tug cover from Scotland’s coastline.

Shipping minister Mike Penning will also be told that the proposed closure of either the Lerwick or Stornoway coastguard station is “completely unacceptable”.

The meeting, in London on 7 February, will see representatives of all the Highlands and Island authorities speaking with one voice to counter what they see as a direct and brutal threat to the safety of seafarers.

“There is real anger about these plans,” said Shetland Islands Council Convener Sandy Cluness,” and it is an anger shared by all council leaders and the people they represent. There is a genuine danger that ships, crews and passengers will be placed in harm’s way if these government actions are allowed to proceed. Lives are at stake. We have probably the longest and most vulnerable coastline in the whole of Europe. The MCA is just a government agency like any other, and the Tory/Liberal coalition should reject this senseless and dangerous proposal without any further delay.”

A professional assessment of the risks faced by mariners off the UK’s most remote coasts has been commissioned by the councils and will be presented to the minister. The delegation will also support coastguard staff in their lobbying of Penning and the presentation of a petition asking him to think again.

MPs and MSPs for the Northern and Western isles have also attacked the plan, which is out for consultation until 24 March. Whichever island coastguard station remains open will see its hours severely cut back from the present round-the-clock status.

Cluness said: “The two emergency towing vessels currently covering the Northern and Western isles, and the north west coast of Scotland, have proven their worth time and time again, as have the dedicated men and women of our coastguard stations, with their detailed local knowledge and commitment to safety at sea. The removal of the Nimrod capability only adds to the dangers.

“These are busy and very dangerous waters, subject to some of the most severe weather found near the UK. As local authority leaders, we have a duty of care to those who live by the sea, and we intend to fulfil that duty when we meet Mr Penning on 7 February, and demand he withdraw these misguided proposals.”
Leader of Western Isles Council, Angus Campbell, said: “The minister has to realise that what they are proposing will put people’s lives at risk across the whole of the west coast of Scotland. If we are left with no tug and no coastguard station there will be a significantly increased risk to lives and the environment. The withdrawal of one of these provisions would be bad enough but to get rid of both is simply unacceptable. Together with our colleagues across the Highlands and Islands we will be making the case for the retention of coastguard stations at both Lerwick and Stornoway and the retention of the emergency tug.”

Davie Tait
2nd February 2011, 16:44
Government urged to re-think West Country coastguard closures


THE Government is coming under increasing pressure from fishing and political circles in the West Country over its plan to end 24-hour cover at the key Falmouth Coastguard centre.

It is being warned that unless there is a radical re-think there is a serious risk that lives will be put at risk in the future. Under the Government plans, Falmouth would lose its round-the-clock cover and would become a sub-centre, open for just eight hours a day. The number of coastguard stations around the country is being reduced from 18 to eight.

The latest protest has come from Cornwall Council which has written to the Shipping Minister Mike Penning, calling the proposals' illogical'. Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton has managed to secure a Westminster Hall debate on the controversy later today (Wednesday).

Cornwall and neighbouring Devon are home to a large number of busy fishing ports and there fears for that sector. The fishing industry in both counties has added its support to the protests. Just seven months ago Falmouth played a key role in the successful rescue of over 100 fishermen from the Faroese factory trawler Athena which was on fire in the Western Approaches.

There are similar moves to save the Brixham rescue centre in Devon which is also under threat. Opponents of the closure plan claim that Brixham helped save over 300 lives last year, many of them fishermen. The Government has said that the closure plans were both designed to save money and part of a wider national re-organisation of the rescue services.