The National Coastguard SOS campaign has let us know that, effective as of this evening, Clyde Coastguard will to all intents and purposes be closed, with Belfast and Stornoway taking responsibility for the area.
Details contained in a leaked Maritime & Coastguard Agency document confirm this to be the case.
It states: ‘Clyde closes on 18th December 2012. However the work to complete the aerial transfers to MRCC Belfast and MRCC Stornoway is on schedule to complete on Friday of this week and the intention is to hand control of the aerials to Belfast and Stornoway on Friday evening. This will happen at the Clyde watch changeover time (2000UTC). By this time the 999 calls will have been diverted by postcode to Belfast or Stornoway as appropriate and the Clyde routine calls will have been diverted to Belfast’.
The document goes on to say that: ‘the watch-keepers remaining at MRCC Clyde until the 18th December will from Friday evening be working in support of Belfast and Stornoway and will shadow incidents and monitor traffic offering advice and guidance to colleagues at Belfast and Stornoway as appropriate’.
It also states that only three staff will be on watch during the period 16th November – 18th December.
Dennis O’Connor for the National Coastguard SOS Campaign group, says: ‘this effectively means that Clyde will cease to exist operationally from tonight.
‘This move by the MCA is a further direct challenge to the Transport Select Committee who recently voiced serious concerns that the closure programme had already begun in September with the closure of Forth Coastguard despite assurances that the replacement system of operation would be fully tested before any closures took place.
‘This further development shows that there is an apparent desire by some to rush through the closure plan and we urge Members of Parliament to ask the Secretary of State for Transport to investigate the tactics that are being employed by his departments’.
We have also been told that Belfast Coastguard took over the Clyde Coastguard aerials/ and telephone system last night and suffered a complete radio communication and 999 facility failure.
This meant that effectively Belfast were blind both to Clyde’s area of responsibility and that of their own.
It was left to Liverpool Coastguard to maintain radio communications for the whole of the Irish Sea and beyond whilst the fault persisted, which meant that Belfast had no means whatsoever to communicate with anyone, public, merchant vessels or Emergency Service colleagues.
The fault persisted for around two hours which necessitated the handing over of all systems back to Clyde.
Mr O’Connor says, with good reason: ‘this proves that what the MCA and DfT would have us believe is progress is in actual fact an act of utter craziness.
‘They are ill prepared to begin the closure programme and just appear to be hoping that all will be alright on the night.
‘Clearly this is not going to be the case and it’s time that the Shipping Minister, Stephen Hammond MP, became more transparent and admitted the failings and shortcomings in the Government’s plan before in results in tragic consequences’.