Tuesday, 21 October 2014

HM Coastguard - Watches Below Risk Assessed Level From January 2014

Updated October 21 and 22

Here are some snippets from Caroline Wheeler's recent article "EXCLUSIVE: Danger at sea as coastguard numbers fall":

Shock new figures show that during the busy summer season Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCC) were understaffed by up to 97 per cent.

Aberdeen was the worst hit, with 97 per cent of shifts staffed at unsafe levels last month and in July, followed by Dover where 91.9 per cent of shifts fell below the required level in August.

Inexperienced staff are being recruited to fill large numbers of vacancies because experienced coastguard officers have been leaving the MCA in their droves since the Coalition announced a modernisation drive in 2010.

"Did you know that 50% of the public did not know 
that you call 999 and ask for the Coastguard?"
"The new national network is scheduled to be 
fully operational by the end of 2015."

For Argyll and the Isles had looked at these failures back in January 2014. Here are some snippets:

Grasp the scale of a single sea area from the south end of the Mull of Galloway northwards, including the Irish coast from and including Carlingford Lough on the east coast, round to Lough Foyle on the north – and stretching north to Cape Wrath to include the Inner and Outer Hebridean Isles and the Western Isles. The Caledonian Canal, from the top of Loch Linnhe, inland to Fort Augustus, also falls within this area.

You’re effectively looking at the entire west coast and islands of Scotland; and the entire coast and islands of Northern Ireland.

Responsibility for this immense and complex sea area is shared by two Coastguard stations – Belfast in its south east and Stornoway on its north west. ..

In the first three months of 2012, Befast coastguard returned an impressive zero failure rate for shift manning. Only Liverpool [to close] and Milford Haven returned so sparkling a performance in safe shift manning over that period.

Then the reality of the consequences of the introduction of the modernisation programme began to percolate and shift manning figures went into decline, as the staffing impacts outlined above began to manifest themselves. Belfast went from zero straight to a 41.7% failure rate in April 2012, with an average of 37.19% failure in the nine months from April to December 2012. ..

Belfast’s average failure rate for 2013 of 56.94% was the highest of all of the UK MRCCs. ..

For the Scottish west coast as a whole, it has to be noted that in July 2013, Belfast and Stornoway MRCCs, as ‘paired’ stations, could not between them make up a single station manned to the minimum agreed safety level.  In that month, Belfast’s failure rate was 80.6% and Stornoway’s 21%, making a combined total failure rate of 101.6%. The total sea area for which they are responsible is vast, with a spectrum of serious risks and a particularly valuable marine environment to protect. We got away with it last year, but what if we hadn't? ..

Good news from the MCA is that they have now achieved a full staffing complement at Belfast, so we would now expect the situation there to start to stabilise.

Sadly, the 2014 figures indicate that Belfast still faces staffing problems.

[NALIL blog - 27 January 2013]

CoastguardSOS - Gambling with Public Safety

The CoastguardSOS link provides data for 2013, including the following table:

The top table on this blog was taken from a search of Whatdotheyknow using 'maritime coastguard agency'. The 129 requests can be refined using a search for 'mrcc' or 'staffing'. A successful request from a Mr Jameson dated 11 January 2014 contains no MCA data. An earlier request from Mr Jameson on 12 December 2013 also contains no MCA data. Both requests relate to manning levels but the detail is probably similar to that contained in the CoastguardSOS link above for 2013.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Coleraine Post-primary Provision - Heir of Uncertainty

Saturday, October 18

Tomorrow some Primary 7 pupils and their parents in the Coleraine catchment area will be taking part in a familiarisation process in advance of the examinations that will impact on their choice of post-primary school for the school year beginning September 2015.

I'm indebted to the Coleraine Times [October 1, 2014] for this press release from the managements of Coleraine Academical Institution, Coleraine College and Coleraine High School:

On Monday, in a joint statement, the three Coleraine schools said: "The Minister's announcement on the future of the Voluntary Grammar and Controlled Post Primary sectors signals the start of an exciting new chapter for education provision in the Coleraine area and one which will provide suitable and sustainable educational pathways for all post-primary pupils in the region.

"We are delighted that the Minister has approved these proposals which had positive support from within the community. While we recognise change of this nature is challenging, we believe this plan presents the best opportunity to deliver a long-term, viable and sustainable Post Primary education system in the Coleraine area".

What a delightful paean of praise. Should parents accept these sentiments at face value? As parents and teachers have been kept so much in the dark it's most unlikely that the community at large will be better informed.

Education minister on right

Task - 15 December 2011

The Minister is commissioning the Education and Library Boards, working in close conjunction with CCMS and engaging extensively with other school sectors, to develop collective strategic plans on an area basis.

"I wanted the planning authorities to set aside individual, sectoral or institutions' needs and focus on how, as a society, we could best provide for the needs of all children and young people in an area." .. Minister, February 26, 2013

'All post-primary pupils in the region'? Unsurprisingly some sectors went and were allowed to go their own way and the North Eastern Education and Library Board was left to cobble together an arrangement for the three schools already mentioned [CAI, CC and CHS]. Those who were paying some attention to the small print noted that in the early consultation phase the 414 responses from CHS parents were only initially counted as one and the responses from the opted-out integrated sector dominated the analysis. The 414 responses were later sort of slipped into the mix - 47 became 447 - but the calculations were left unchanged. Should this not have been picked up and resolved by NEELB members?

The following observation in the same Coleraine Times article knocks some of the shine off the glowing review at the top of the blog:

The schools will now begin the significant work of preparing for the implementation of the decision, a process which will focus on the needs of current pupils in the schools as well as those who will attend them in future years.

In other words, the management of the three schools would appear to have signed off on an almost empty page rather than 'an exciting new chapter'. Have they been fobbed off with the proverbial pig-in-a-poke?

The Ministerial statement issued on Friday, September 24, 2014 appears to have been written by Department officials [pdf file] and sent to the Minister the previous Monday. This statement betrays a certain nervousness:

Presentational/Contentious Issues: It is likely that your decision will attract media coverage.

So why might officials be worried? Could it be to do with the information that has been withheld?

Proposal [i] Amalgamation – facilitated by closure of Coleraine AI and Coleraine HS and the establishment of a new school. ... The DP proposes the enrolment at the new VGS [on the CAI site] to be 1060 by the year 2020.

In theory, the combined Year 8 intake in September 2015 could be slashed from 240 to 150 but, in practice, it's unlikely that the current facilities at CAI could be upgraded to accommodate the girls in such a narrow time-frame; the statement coyly refers to 'a reduction in the numbers'.

Will there be a new build, even a new principal? The Minister's recent response to Claire Sugden MLA appears to offer little more than a fairly basic refurbishment:

To ask the Minister of Education what commitment to funding can he make for a new build following his acceptance of proposals to merge Coleraine High School and Coleraine Academical Institution, whilst increasing enrolment at Coleraine College.

- Hide Answer

On 24 September 2014 I approved the Development Proposals published on 7 May 2014 by North Eastern Education & Library Board (NEELB), to facilitate the amalgamation of Coleraine High School and Coleraine Academical Institution, whilst increasing enrolment at Coleraine College to 900 pupils with effect from 1 September 2015 or as soon as possible thereafter.

My Department will fund the works necessary to allow the amalgamation of Coleraine High School and Coleraine Academical Institution on one site and will give consideration, in conjunction with the school authorities, to the works necessary to facilitate the amalgamation.

However any proposal for a new build for the amalgamated school would be considered along with other projects put forward in advance of any future announcement being made.

I can advise that planning of a programme of minor works for Coleraine Academical Institution is currently underway. Details are as follows: [list]

There's no detail of the major works required or estimate of likely cost.

The DP proposes the enrolment at Coleraine College is increased from an approved enrolment of 600 to 900 with effect from 1 September 2015 or as soon as possible thereafter. The NEELB have also confirmed that the increase at Coleraine College will be on a phased basis, rebalancing the decreased enrolment at the new VGS. The 2013/14 actual enrolment was 244 pupils, significantly less than the approved enrolment.

Will the proposed movement of pupils from fairly successful schools to a school that has struggled whilst under the oversight of the NEELB bolster 'parental confidence in the school’s ability to deliver high quality education' - or will parents look to other post-primary schools to educate their children?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Bushmills - Art for Business Sake

I'm told a London-based German television crew is coming to town next week to explore the impact of recession and the local action that has been taken to give the main thoroughfare a facelift. Apparently the television company was influenced by a recent article in Der Spiegel, a prominent German newspaper. The article was based on a series of photographs published about a year ago by Cathal McNaughton.

"Life in Northern Ireland Bushmills is rather dull - unemployment is high, tourists stay out. But the residents do not want to just accept that and paint life in their town." .. Google translation of the opening comments in the Der Spiegel article.

Is it too late for Moyle District Council to persuade the owners of the properties on the riverbank to improve the following views?

Much of the hoarding has disappeared and one of the boarded up end windows of the former bank has been smashed.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Causeway Coast - To Frack or Not to Frack 2


Down in Fermanagh:

"Tamboran plans to extract gas using the controversial fracking technique.

It was granted a petroleum licence in 2011. It had three years to either inform the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) on its decision to drill or drop its plans.

This deadline passed on Tuesday and an extension was not granted.

Its lawyers will now seek judicial reviews of both Stormont Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster's decision not to extend the licence and Environment Minister Mark H Durkan's rejection in August of a request to drill a borehole at the site near Belcoo." ... BBC report from Fermanagh, October 1, 2014

Meanwhile up on the Causeway Coast there's to be another public meeting

Added October 16

95ZBF: Before Clause 28, insert the following new Clause—

“Further provision about the right of use

(1) The ways in which the right of use may be exercised include—

(a) drilling, boring, fracturing or otherwise altering deep- level land [below 300 metres];

(b) installing infrastructure in deep-level land;

(c) keeping, using or removing any infrastructure installed in deep-level land;

(d) passing any substance through, or putting any substance into, deep-level land or infrastructure installed in deep- level land; Infrastructure Bill - House of Lords, October 14, 2014.