A CAMPAIGN group is ‘appalled’ at the level of understaffing in Coastguard Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres.

Coastguard SOS has released figures requested under the Freedom of Information Act, which it says shows ‘critical’ levels of understaffing at stations including Portland.

The figures show that 20 per cent of shifts in 2013 at the Portland centre failed to meet the agreed minimum risk assessed level of staff.

In 2012 the figure was more than 27 per cent.

The co-ordination centre at Portland is one of a number set to close over the next few years and campaigners with Coastguard SOS said the figures show that understaffing is putting people in danger and urged the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to halt the closure process.

Dennis O’Connor, of the campaign group, said: “We are frankly appalled at the latest understaffing figures. MP’s and the public have continually been fobbed off with spin on this issue which should be of the gravest concern to everyone.”

A spokesperson from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: "Currently, where a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) is experiencing reduced staffing levels, established 'pairing' arrangements are used.

“This means each MRCC can be connected to at least one other MRCC that will provide mutual support.

"Under the future structure, the introduction of the 'National Network' as part of the modernisation of HM Coastguard will enable the National Maritime Operations Centre and all other centres to coordinate any incident around the UK coast.

“This will enable workload and incidents to be managed nationally rather than locally as at present."