Today Clyde Coastguard ceases to exist in a move described by the Transport Select Committee as financially driven and that has seen first Forth Coastguard and now Clyde closed for good.
This has happened with nothing more than empty political posturing from the Scottish Government who, with or without formally devolved powers could, politically, have stopped this had they so desired.
They may well not have done so because they agreed with the logic of what is a nationwide reorganisation – but if this were the case, they should, in honour, have shared their thinking and their evidence with their electorate rather than fire off the occasional feeble official squib and effectively do nothing,
Clyde coastguard has been part of the life of all who use the waters of the south west coast of Scotland and the north east coast of Ireland for as long as any of us can remember. It has looked after maritime commercial shipping, the Royal Navy, leisure sailing, and watersports enthusiasts of all kinds.
It has managed incidents at sea, overseen rescues, helped to save lives and countered risks to the marine environment and that of the complex coastal shorelines of this part of the world.
Those who live, work and play on the water will have embedded in their consciousness its call, ‘Clyde Coastguard’ coming over the VHF to inform, greet or respond on so many types of occasion.
It is impossible to believe that we will not hear that reassuring call again. But we will not.
This does not mean that our waters, coasts, lives and environment will not be secure in the care of Belfast Coastguard – who are now responsible for the entire coastline of Northern Ireland and for all of that of Scotland from the Mull of Galloway, out to Tiree in the Atlantic and to Ardnamurchan Point, south east of the Small Isles.
Belfast Coastguard has been paired with Clyde Coastguard since the early 2000s, They know and respect each other well and are pretty familiar with each other’s territory. Clyde Coastguard have been the first to admit that they themselves do not know every inlet, tidal feature and place name of the complex chunk of the west coast for which they have been responsible.
So we will not be less safe but we will be more nervous and uncertain – as is inevitable as any new and essentially untried system beds in.
Clyde Coastguard is part of our history – up to the arrival in this century of the flying boats of Loch Lomond Seaplanes, landing in the Clyde and providing the scenario for a recent rescue services exercise in the Clyde, in which the coastguard were centrally involved.
Clyde Coastguard have known the evolution of Clydeport, the shipping companies, the tugs, the cruise liners coming in to Greenock’s Ocean Terminal, the warships and submarines, the sea trials, the new ship launches at Govan [one yesterday at Fergusons, yard - the new CMAL hybrid ferry for Raasay], the pleasure boats like the Waverley paddle steamer, the ferries, the fishing fleets and the yacht clubs that dot, close to home, the immense Clyde waterway, with its endless sea loch and wrapped around the islands of the Cumbraes, Arran, Bute and Davaar.
We have done all we can and we can do no more – but mark and genuinely mourn their passing with incomprehension.
Our feelings are shared by two of the newest services, both serving Argyll and both on the waterways now formerly guarded by this service:
- Kintyre Express, the fleet of small fast passenger ferries that skite across the North Channel between Campbeltown and Ballycastle in Northern Ireland, have heard their last familiar call from ‘Clyde Coastguard’, received as they come home past Davaar Island into Campbeltown Loch.
- Clydelink, the newest passenger ferry on the inner Firth of Clyde, is dealing with a controversial and tumultuous birth and early childhood with dignity as it plies between Gourock and Kilcreggan on the Rosneath peninsula, opposite the home of the UK national submarine base at Faslane.
Colin Craig of Kintyre Express and West Coast Motors says:
‘The closing of Clyde seems utterly ridiculous to me and one cut too far. There were similar calls when Oban closed but I don’t think you can compare the two, given the size of the area Clyde covered.
‘Our routine “shout” to report itinerary or safe arrival has been a part of every Kintyre Express outing and whilst I’m sure we will receive excellent support from Belfast, the professional response and familiar Scottish voices that we’ve got to know from Clyde will be missed.
‘On behalf of all the Kintyre Express team, a very grateful thank you to all Clyde staff who have looked after us over the past 3 years and I wish them all the very best.’
Mark Aikman of Clydelink says;
‘Clydelink Ferries would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff at Clyde Coastguard for their professionalism and dedication over the years.
‘The busy Firth of Clyde and its environs will certainly miss the watchful eye and local knowledge of our local facility.
‘We wish all of the team well in their future endeavours.’