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MP warns of 'serious consequences' of coastguard operations centre closure
Mr Drax, who has campaigned for the Weymouth harbourside maritime rescue and coordination centre (MRCC) to stay open, said he is ‘disappointed’ by the government’s cost-cutting decision to axe it.
It will be replaced by a Marine Operations Centre (MOC) at Segensworth, Hampshire, which is one of ten new networked MOCs across the country.
Portland MRCC is one of eight MRCCs across the UK to be closed.
Mr Drax said: “While we anticipated that these closures would be earlier, a few months’ delay is of no comfort.
“Many of us have fought tooth and nail to retain these Marine Response Co-ordination Centres (MRCCs), because there is simply nothing better.
“They are staffed by men and women who live locally, who know the local area intimately and who can tell at a glance exactly which lifesaving asset to dispatch to any incident.”
A Transport Select Committee report criticised the decision to close the centre, saying it would cost lives.
Mr Drax said: “The TSC issued a report saying that the closure of the Portland SAR helicopter would ‘cost lives.’ “But the Department of Transport is pressing on regardless.
“I need hardly add that the closure of our coastguard station in Portland, followed in 2017 by the closure of the SAR helicopter there, will leave the busiest coastguard rescue area in the country at the mercy of distant computer operators.
“With a MOC in Hampshire and SAR helicopters coming from Cornwall and Hampshire, the potential for delay is obvious. There will be serious consequences.”
The Portland Coastguard MRCC is currently operated by around 20 staff members.
These staff will be invited to apply for jobs at the MOC and other coastguard stations which are remaining open.
The Portland Coastguard Rescue helicopter also faces the axe by 2017 under government cost-cutting plans.
Transport Minister Stephen Hammond has said that the service will continue until June 2017 as planned despite current crewing difficulties.
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