A Freedom of Information from a national newspaper has revealed that Aberdeen Coastguard has been 33.3% understaffed for a year – from April 2012 to March 2013.
It should have an establishment of 36 staff and has been running with 12 below that number.
The Daily Mail reported yesterday that in one specific month last year, the station was ‘ below “risk assessed” levels on 50 out of 60 shifts – or operating for 96.6% of that time at this serious level of undermanning.
Across the year covered by the FoI information, 419 out of 730 shifts overall were undermanned – a 57.4% undermanning rate.
Aberdeen is a very busy port, serving the oil and gas industry in the North Sea, underlining the gravity of this staffing situation.
The original plan of the UK Transport Department and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency [which is now within that department of government] was to close every one of Scotland’s coastguard stations except Aberdeen – and additionally to cut the two Emergency Towing Vessels stationed in Stornoway and Lerwick .
This obviously daft proposal would have seen the entirety of Scotland watched over from the Aberdeen coastguard station alone – with our complex coastline and islands, Atlantic and North Sea approaches and busy shipping channels through routes at envirinmental risk in the case of a spillage incident.
The initial stages of the plan were railroaded through, seeing the closure of both Forth Coastguard and Clyde Coastguard – and with a curiously disengaged stance from the Scottish Government. Ministers made no more than token formal objections, while fighting for the retention of one ETV and for Stornoway Coastguard.
These were retained and, with representation on the risks attendant on developing oil exploration west of Shetland, Shetland Coastguard was also retained and given an extended area of responsibility – with Aberdeen having to assume additional responsibility for the sea area that had attached to Forth Coastguard.
Staffing levels at Shetland appear to have been maintained at an acceptable level, wiht the released documentation showing undermanning at no more than 3 of its 730 shifts.