South West Wales

Swansea Coastguard: First Minister calls for rethink

Silent protest at Swansea Coastguard station
Image caption Around 100 protesters took part in a silent protest when the Shipping Minister visited Swansea

The Welsh government wants a re-think over plans to close Swansea coastguard station.

The UK government has been consulting on modernisation of the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCC's) so they are "fit for the 21st Century".

Under the shake-up, Swansea MRCC would shut, keeping 24/7 centres at Milford Haven and Holyhead.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said the proposals must be reconsidered and alternative options explored.

Swansea MRCC, with a staff of 28, is one of eight HM Coastguard stations scheduled to undergo a phased shutdown.

Campaigners claim its closure, scheduled for 2015, will risk lives not just off the Swansea and Gower coastlines but across the whole Bristol Channel.

Swansea is the busiest MRCC in Wales and the third busiest station in the UK.

'Magnificent job'

The UK government has already revised its original proposals. In the original consultation, it was proposed that Swansea would remain a sub-station operating in day time.

The First Minister, Carwyn Jones said: ""Our coastguards do a magnificent job in keeping our coastlines safe.

"Over recent months, I have discussed these proposals with people right across south, west and north Wales, and the view expressed to me time and time again has been the same - that these proposals are wrong".

Mr Jones said the fact more than a million people had signed a petition against the proposals showed the strength of feeling.

The Welsh government has responded to the Department for Transport consultation, calling for the retention of all three MRCCs in Wales on a 24/7 basis.

"The UK Government needs to re-consider its proposals and explore alternative options that would allow all existing stations across Wales to be maintained", said Mr Jones.

"We are not convinced that the proposals for a reduction in the number of MRCC's around the coast would not have an impact on response times and, subsequently, on safety.

Image caption Swansea coastguard station is the busiest in Wales, dealing with alerts in the Bristol Channel

The Welsh government statement said the existing structure "worked well".

A Department for Transport spokesperson said the consultation on the updated proposals has now been concluded and the department will make an announcement by the end of the year.

"We have been clear that modernisation is required to deliver a resilient Coastguard service, fit for the 21st century", said the spokesperson.

"Our updated proposals, as set out in July, will ensure the safety of seafarers and coastal communities, delivering the modernised and more cost-effective service we need for the 21st century, while also responding to the concerns raised during the consultation process", they added.

A number of local politicians support the campaign to save the station in Swansea.

A series of demonstrations have also been held.

A 'floating' protest was held in August, with sailors, fishermen, surfers and beach goers taking part.

In September, the UK Shipping Minister Mike Penning was met with a 'silent protest' during a visit to the Swansea MRCC.

Campaigners fighting the closure of the Swansea centre also went to Westminster, taking to the River Thames in rigid-inflatable boats last month. They were backed by solo round-the-World yachstman Tony Bullimore.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites