COASTGUARD campaigners have renewed their call to save Portland Coastguard and helicopter as the first coastguard station is closed.
Under current government plans to modernise the coastguard service and create supercentres as hubs for lifesaving operations around the UK, Portland Maritime Rescue and Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) on Weymouth harbourside faces the axe along with seven other regional stations by the end of March, 2015.
The rescue helicopter based on Portland faces the chop in 2017.
Forth coastguard station in Scotland closed its doors last week. As a mark of respect campaigners put a picture of the station with a black ribbon on social networking sites.
Dennis O’Connor from the national Coastguard SOS campaign said the government must ‘stop the closure programme immediately’ and launch a full investigation into the effects the closures could have.
He said: “The plan to close stations is an absolute disgrace and it will expose coast users to far greater risks than those who support the closure plan will comprehend until people lose their lives.”
The decision to close the Portland MRCC and axe the helicopter has been widely condemned in Dorset.
The Dorset Echo launched a campaign to save the coastguard by siting the new supercentre in the area, backed by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.
A petition with more than 22,000 was presented to Number Ten Downing Street last year.
Coastguard campaigners Stella Roper, pictured, and Mark Bowditch worked tirelessly on the campaign.
The pair also volunteer on MV Freedom, a Weymouth boat that takes disabled people out to experience being at sea. Miss Roper was rescued by the coastguard helicopter when she was 14. She had been on a school trip when she collapsed.
She said keeping both the helicopter and the coastguard operations centre on Weymouth Harbourside were essential and that important local knowledge would be lost if both services were taken.
She said: “If it wasn’t for the co-ordination centre and the helicopter I wouldn’t be here.”
Miss Roper described the decision to remove the coastguard services as ‘disgusting’.
Mr Bowditch added that losing the helicopter and the co-ordination centre would be a ‘great loss.’
E-PETITION GATHERS NEARLY 12,000 SIGNATURES
AN e-petition to save the Portland helicopter has more than 11,000 signatures.
Organisers of the online petition are aiming to get 100,000 signatures to force a debate on the issue in the House of Commons.
So far the petition has 11,749 names on it, but more are needed before the deadline of the end of July, 2013.
To sign the petition visit epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/36619