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Coastguard centre to close inside year
THE Portland Coastguard operations centre will close next September, it has been announced.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said last week that the closure will coincide with the launch of the new National Maritime Operations Centre in Fareham.
MP for South Dorset Richard Drax said the loss of the centre, along with the planned withdrawal of the rescue helicopter ‘will lead to unnecessary deaths’.
He added: “We rely heavily on the rescue services on this stretch of coast and the men and women who dedicate their lives to the community.
“Putting this facility in Hampshire is picking apart the very fabric of our town.”
Campaigner Roger Macpher-son, of Weymouth, said the situation is ‘ludicrous’.
He said: “This was inevitable. The centre was never something we could save as the final decision had been made, but I still think it is a retrograde step.
“This is the hub of all coastguard operations in the area. The people who staff it decide what response is needed – whether it is the helicopter, Land Rover, or lifeboats – and they have the local knowledge to know how long it will take to get there and whether there are any difficult currents to cope with.
“All that is going to be lost.”
The move is part of the Government’s plan to modernise the coastguard service across the country.
A spokesman for the MCA said that the Fareham centre would open before the closure of the Portland and Solent bases, and that staff and facilities would be rigorously tested.
Chief executive of the MCA Sir Alan Massey said: “We are moving into a new era for HM Coastguard that will reinforce the ability of our staff to ensure the safety of seafarers and the public.
“We want to continue being a world-class organisation that is committed to preventing loss of life, improving maritime safety, and protecting the marine environment. Coastguards can look forward to more satisfying and better rewarded careers.”
He added: “We realise that this programme will be tough for some of our people, particularly those who feel that they have no future with HM Coastguard.
“We recognise that, and will do our very best to work with every individual to ensure they are properly equipped and supported in making the best decision for them.”
National campaigner Dennis O’Connor, of Coastguard SOS, said the closure of the Portland centre was ‘even more contentious’ than the closure of other centres across the country.
He added: “I fear this will have a serious impact on the Dorset coast, which is one of the biggest tourism destinations in the UK.
“An incredible risk is being taken here.”