Northern Ireland

NI coastguard centre could close


Northern Ireland's only dedicated coastguard centre could be closed under plans announced by the coalition government.

Either Belfast or Liverpool will have their sub-centre closed.

Shipping Minister Mike Penning has plans for just three full-time coastguard stations in the UK - Aberdeen, Southampton and Dover.

There will also be five sub-centres open during the day - one of which will be in either Belfast or Liverpool.

The Belfast Lough centre is based in Bangor and serves the whole coast of Northern Ireland.

Independent councillor Alan Chambers said there are big safety concerns.

"Can you imagine ringing someone in Liverpool or Glasgow, or wherever it's relocated to, to try to tell them you've spotted a boat that's overturned beside the caravan site in Portrush.

"These people here in Bangor know exactly where local people are talking about - it's going to cost lives in the long run."

So far this year the Bangor centre has been involved in more than 600 rescue operations.

It could be March before a final decision is made over the centre's future.