Assembly Member urges Minister to retain Swansea Coastguard Station

July 26, 2011 2:54 PM
Originally published by Peter Black and South Wales West Liberal Democrats

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black, has written to the UK Department of Transport asking them to retain Swansea Coastguard Station.

Mr. Black has written to the Minister responsible but he has also completed the consultation form on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency website. He wrote:

"The loss of Swansea Coastguard Station is a particularly serious threat to safety in the Swansea area and the wider Bristol Channel. This coastguard station covers the area from Gower along the Welsh coast as far as Bristol and back along the Avon, Somerset and Devon coastline. In 2010 the number of incidents involving Swansea coastguard was 2,074 and the coastguard workers union say it is the second busiest station in the UK in terms of inshore search and rescue operations. That compares with 1,006 that were attended by Milford Haven coastguard station and 1,137 recorded by Holyhead Station

The specialist knowledge of the coastguards based at this station is key to saving lives, whether it is in directing rescue operations in the treacherous currents of the Loughor estuary, understanding the geography of the many bays and inlets off the Bristol Channel for cliff side rescues or directing operations around a person trapped in the many mud traps on the coastline.

Milford Haven traditionally works directing operations around the Pembrokeshire coastline and Cardigan Bay and does not have the capacity nor the local knowledge to take over from Swansea. Inevitably, if they are engaged on an incident then the next coastguard station to take over coordinating rescue operations in the Bristol Channel will be Stornoway or the Solent. That in itself is absurd and unsustainable.

In addition, Swansea Coastguard Station regularly cooperates with different agencies in the southwest of England and South Wales which significantly contributes to increase safety of British coasts.

Swansea is better placed strategically to co-ordinate activity in and around the Bristol Channel  and the staff there have a wealth of experience in this regard. Above all I am confused as to the reasons given for closure which, according to statements in the House of Commons appears to be that the Government want to spread Transport Department jobs around. The considerations in these proposals should be about safety and operational effectiveness not a newly emerged jobs strategy. On this grounds it seems to me that keeping Swansea Coastguard Station open is the only logical option. 

Finally, I would draw your attention to proposals to construct a major deep water wind farm near to Lundy island. This is a major undertaking that will involve the transport of equipment and turbines, labour and machinery from Swansea, Port Talbot and Milford Haven over the construction period of the Atlantic Array. The coordination of this traffic around existing uses, including the hundreds of surfers, boat owners, survey vessels, water skiers, passenger and commercial shipping is a massive undertaking that needs an experienced and knowledgeable coastguard station to oversee it. Milford Haven do not meet that criteria, whilst Solent and Stornoway would be even more remote."

Mr. Black has urged members of the public to let Ministers know the strength of public feeling against this closure proposal by completing the consultation form, questions three and four on the MCA website at http://feedback.mcga.gov.uk/v.asp?i=38227kwyqj&m=&tiag=1&x=

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