Confusion over Clyde Coastguard closure after Cameron letter suggests temporary reprieve


By G.A.Ponsonby
The future of a Clyde Coastguard Base has been thrown into confusion after an announcement by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency appeared to contradict the contents of a letter sent to a campaign group by UK PM David Cameron
The Clyde Coastguard rescue co-ordination centre at Greenock, which was earmarked for closure at the end of this year, received an apparent temporary reprieve after David Cameron wrote to a campaign group promising the base would remain open until 2015.

The letter, which was dated 12 July, contained the following: “those centres that are planned for closure will remain open until 2015 in order to ensure that the planned transition to the new arrangements will maximise the retention of local knowledge.”

Mr Cameron was responding to a letter from a campaign group, ‘Coastguard SOS’, who have been fighting to save the base, sited near the Battery Park in Greenock, as well as other bases, from closure.

Campaigners subsequently issued statements saying the centres – including Clyde – had been granted a “reprieve.”

However, in a response issued today, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) insisted there has been no change to the plan and that Clyde Coastguard will be closed as scheduled with its work being transferred to the centres in Belfast and Stornoway.

An MCA spokesman said: “The reform of Coastguard stations will go ahead as planned.  The PM has written to his constituent to clarify the matter.  Under the plans the Coastguard co-ordination centres at Forth, Clyde, Great Yarmouth, Liverpool, Thames, Swansea, Brixham and Portland will close progressively by 31 March 2015.

“The Ministry of Defence (MoD) plan to close their base at Clyde [Navy Buildings in Eldon Street] and part of that plan means that the Clyde Coastguard and all its associated equipment must be removed.  Staff are already informally aware of the intended closure date of 31 December 2012.

“A change team comprising operational staff from Clyde, Belfast and Stornoway is actively managing the technical and operational work required to achieve the decommissioning of Clyde by 31 December 2012.  We aim to transfer operational coordination for Clyde’s area to Belfast and Stornoway by 18 December 2012.  This will avoid trying to manage technical switchover during the Christmas period.”

Clyde MRCC in Greenock is Scotland’s busiest coastguard base and employs 30 people, covering 2,500 miles of Clyde coastline.

The MCA statement will prove particularly embarrassing for the PM who appears not to have known when the Greenock base was scheduled to close.  Mr Cameron’s acknowledgement of the need for a delay in order to ensure as much local knowledge as possible is passed on, also calls into question the December 2012 closure date.

The apparent contradictory statements will also have served to cause considerable confusion and upset to those staff still employed at the Greenock based site, and who would have been buoyed by the possibility of up to three years extra employment.