Assurances given over Coastguard recruitment drive

The UK government transport minister Stephen Hammond has assured Galloway that efforts are ongoing to recruit and retain staff within the Coastguard.

Concerns were raised last week over the number of under-staffed shifts reported since the closure of the Clyde coordination centre 13 months ago, leading to Galloway waters being covered by Belfast and Liverpool staff.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown, as part of a delegation of MPs, met with Mr Hammond last week to discuss the situation and in particular, the safety of the ferry routes between Cairnryan and Northern Ireland.

After the meeting, Mr Brown said: “It was clear that with critical understaffing at Belfast for over 400 shifts during the year (almost 39%), that answers needed to be given. The Minister and his officials said that there were three rounds of recruitment with the process on-going and that retention within the service had been improved. I questioned him on the pressures of the job and asked if sickness levels due to stress were a contributing factor and he indicated that uncertainty about the future of the service was not helping with some personnel opting to leave.

The point was made that there should have been extra resilience work done before the closure of certain stations, including Clyde, and that the worry was now the move towards the closure of the station at Liverpool. Over late December and early January, the west coast had experienced some extremely bad weather with strong gales and, perhaps with an element of good fortune, we had not witnessed in serious tragedies and loss of life.”