SOS :Save Our Coastguard Stations: SOS

Swansea Coastguard Station

New Year 2012 was spent on the Gower Peninsula in Wales and was made more special by dropping in to visit the Swansea Coastguard Station. The seemingly, periously perched Station is situated at Tutt Head, Mumbles and is responsible for a large and hazardous operational area, including Marsland Mouth, North Devon/Cornwall Border to River Towy, Camarthen.

To put things in context with the recent Costa Cruise ship disaster off the Italian coast, have a look at the last post (SOS – Save Our Souls – Please!) and thank goodness that it did not happen off our coast now that we no longer have the four special tugs stationed around the coastline – our first line of defence against any potential oil spills.

Swansea Coastguard Station is currently the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre for the area.  It would be the responsibility of the Coastguard to co-ordinate the rescue attempts that we have watched on the TV and web, should this have happened in their geographical area. And what if they are not there?  What is the proposed alternative?

At the moment, Swansea has many more incidents than Holyhead and Milford Haven stations combined!  A frightening statistic made up of boats overturned/in mud, people in water/stranded, surfers and suicides, to name but a few. Why Swansea is so successful in responding to these incidents is the local knowledge the coastguards have from living and working in the area. It is the same with all Coastguards Stations, local knowledge saves lives.

Wall map showing the large area of responsibility in England & Wales for Swansea Coastguard Station

You would not expect an experienced and knowledgable London cabbie to know landmarks in a place one hundred and seventy-five miles away, so why would you put the lives of people in the Swansea area, in the hands of the Southampton Station? No offence meant to the wonderful people stationed there, but equally, Swansea would no more know their way around Southampton landmarks than the Southampton team would in Swansea’s area.

So, for example, when there are two caves with exactly the same name but in totally different locations and people stranded with the tide coming in ~ which do you go to?  Lives count on the decisions made and, if the person responding to the call has no local knowledge of that particular area, then they may possibly choose the empty cave rather than go to where the stranded people are.  And if the ship or person is at sea and they can only say where they are by what they can see ashore, again, only local knowledge can save the day – and the people! Especially when you realise that the strength of the currents can take people and boats quite a few miles in just half an hour!  So the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) needs to be gauged against the position they will be in, otherwise no-one and nothing will be found.

Not sure how the MCA will be able to achieve the statement on its website;

Our highly trained Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre personnel are ready to respond to emergency calls 24-hours, 365 days a year for the UK coast and surrounding waters. Our primary aim is to reduce incidents through prevention activity, education and improved regulations while maintaining effective enforcement.

Well, they will be able to respond to incidents but not how their vision sees it;

Our vision is to be the best maritime safety organisation in the world, committed to Safer Lives, Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas.

At Swansea Coatsguard Station, we met four fantastic team members; all of whom were expert in all things to do with the Coastguard Service and the area of responsibility of Swansea.  It was a privilege to see around the station.

The ‘cave’ is a classic example for the Maritime Minister, Mike Penning, MP for the landlocked Hemel Hempstead constituency, to take notice of.  Would that he would pay more heed to the needs of the people and not the need to balance budgets! The irony of the matter is that Swansea was one of the Stations saved on the first listing, but someone decided to change that for the second listing, even though Swansea met all the original criteria of road and rail links, communication systems and recruitment. Sometimes with civil servants, it really is a question of where has common sense gone! Politics and budgets should bear no part on decisions that may have an affect on our lives, seems morals and standards get left behind.

Working in the travel, tourism and hospitality sector myself, if anything happens to any visitors to our wonderful isle, well, it would be an absolute disaster. Both for the people involved and for the tourism industry as a whole.  Great Britain is so wonderfully unique because it is an island with a mixture of picturesque and dangerous coastlines.  Extremely dangerous around the area of reponsibility for Swansea.  And if the proposed changes do go ahead, then the Milford Haven Coastguard Station would have to take on the responsibility of the Swansea Coastguard Stations, meaning they would have more than twice their current geographical area to look after, and with no extra personnel – not fair on anyone.

Since reading the first news of these ludicrous proposals, I have been privileged to make friends with some wonderful people on Twitter and Facebook who are involved in the campaign to ‘ Save Our Coastguard Stations’.  Two of the best would be Dennis O’Connor and Lou Pooley ~ great ambassadors for the Coastguard Service and very unhappy to have to be campaigning against the proposed cuts within the Maritime Coatdguard Agency.

That it should not be happening is a given – and  yet another example of the damaging and dangerous decisions this  ‘Greenest Government ever’ is making.  The current fad for the phrase ‘Keep calm and carry on’ would be the thing to do but how can you keep silent when you, and so many others, can see the potential problems and disasters these proposals would bring.  Notice the use of the word would, not could, that’s not correct; it is definitely ‘would’.

Have a look at the great new website ‘CoastguardSOS.com‘ – and please make signing the petition to save the Coastguard Stations, the next thing you do after reading this!  Spread the word, make our coast safe for our children and our grandchildren.  Edmunde Burke once said,  ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’ ~ we’re not necessarily talking about evil, but we are talking about the sanctity of life!

So, let’s make sure all these wonderful, dedicated guys and girls are going to be part of the Coastguard for as long as they want to be and for as long as we need them there – which would be never-ending!  What are you waiting for? Sign that petition!

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