Tuesday, 21 October 2014

HM Coastguard - Watches Below Risk Assessed Level From January 2014

Updated October 21 and 22 and 23

"The rash concept of radical cost cutting to ‘modernise’ the United Kingdom coastguard service and its clumsy introduction has led to the devastation of the service." .. For Argyll and the Isles, October 23, 2014

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.

Added October 25

Those with concerns about current MRCC manning levels can and probably should raise this and any other issues with their elected representatives. The Transport Select Committee wasn't impressed with the Government's approach to reorganisation back in 2011; it was unhappy with manning levels and other matters in October 2013; perhaps it should now carry out a further review. Contact details.