North West MEP calls for urgent review of Liverpool Coastguard closure

Speaking from the European Parliament in Brussels, Theresa Griffin, Labour MEP for the North West of England, has called for an urgent review of the closure of the Liverpool coastguard service at Crosby.

From Friday, January 16th, those who phone 999 or put out a mayday signal off the Merseyside coast will have their call dealt with by a centre in Holyhead, North Wales, rather than the one at Crosby due to the closure of the Liverpool Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre.

Theresa Griffin MEP met with John Hayes MP, Minister for Transport, today in the European Parliament to reiterate Labour’s opposition to the closure of the Crosby coastguard.

“The understaffing of the Crosby centre over the past several months has reached critical level” Ms Griffin said.

“Closing the coastguard service in Liverpool could risk an increase in response times. The area to be covered by the new service will extend as far north as South West Scotland. I am deeply concerned about the level of support to be offered to the staff.

“Services like emergency respondents are best dealt locally – local knowledge about our coasts can mean the difference between a successful rescue or not”, Ms Griffin said.

The Labour Shadow Maritime Minister, Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South, also raised fears over the changes as well as understaffing at coastguard centres in recent months.

He said: “Besides the dangerous and increasing understaffing, it’s been confirmed to me that not a single coastguard has transferred from Liverpool to Holyhead. That’s likely to mean an invaluable knowledge of the local coastline has been lost.”

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS union which represents Coastguard staff, said:

“We remain opposed to the government’s closure programme. Since it was announced the MCA has haemorrhaged staff and the agency is having to take on new recruits because too many experienced coastguard workers have left – something we warned would happen. Decades of knowledge about our coastlines, which in an emergency can mean the difference between life and death, are being lost, and ministers seem staggeringly complacent about the reliability of the technology as a replacement.”

When the Crosby base closes the building will be turned into a coastal hub training centre for volunteers from North Wales and the North West.

There are 11 workers there who are taking voluntary redundancy. Three staff will remain, two will be transferred to other government departments and one is moving to another coastguard co-ordination centre.