Sir Alan Massey, CEO of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, is in Greenock today, to say goodbye in person to the remaining staff at Clyde Coastguard.
Despite all of the logical and operational gaps in the new system for the service and despite two highly critical reports by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, the most recent only days old, the closure of coastguard stations is going ahead.
Forth has gone, Clyde is officially buried tomorrow – 18th December 2012.
The new system will not, realistically, have the heart of its key coordination function in working operation until until 2015, after most or even all of the listed coastguard stations have been closed.
We appreciate that Sir Alan is instructed by government to prepare plans to meet sharply reduced budgets; and we have sympathy with the extent to which he has to tutor and actually answer for a succession of short-term uninformed Shipping Ministers, who are speechless in response to educated questions.
When we heard that he was in Greenock today, we asked if he had the Minister with him. Current Shipping Minister, Stephen Hammond MP, was noted, with criticism, in the Transport Select Committee’s recent report, not to have deemed it necessary actually to visit a working coastguard Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre.
The answer was, ‘No’.
The Minister is not about to break his duck at Clyde.
It is impossible not to respect Sir Alan’s courage and courtesy in confronting in person a difficult situation, as he will today at Clyde Coastguard; just as it is impossible to respect a Minister who does not even try.
This is, though, a situation of Sir Alan’s own making. It arises from a plan that, while, as the Transport Select Committee noted, no one has opposed to a revision and reshaping of the coastguard service, seems ill thought and is, on evidence, ill prepared.