Google Earth could be future of coastguard

CLOSURE of the coastguard centre which covers Galloway could result in rescuers relying on Google Earth to locate incidents, it has been suggested this week.

Skipper of the MoD range boat in Kirkcudbright, Gary McKie, said that the local knowledge held by the current team in Liverpool, who are being threatened with replacement by a team in Belfast, cannot be substituted.

He told The Gazette: “It takes years to develop a knowledge of the area like the team in Liverpool have and to be told that Google Earth and other facilities will be made more available is just ridiculous.”

Gary patrols the Solway near Dundrennan Range, the MoD infantry training area which uses stretches of the water, and is in constant contact with the Liverpool coastguard to ensure safety of passing boats near the range.

He said: “We talk to Liverpool all day and when we mention a certain place, they know exactly where we mean. If we lose them, it will impact hugely on this area. It’s just a ridiculous idea.”

Gary added: “I’m not at all saying that Belfast won’t know what they’re doing in terms of rescues and safety, but they simply don’t know the area like Liverpool do which could result in delays and confusion.”

The plan to reduce the UK’s 24 coastguard centres to just eight will see Liverpool and Clyde’s current areas - from Wales to the west coast of Scotland - transferred to Belfast, leaving 750 miles of coastline in the hands of one centre - in Northern Ireland.

Gary says those who patrol the seas around Galloway work as part of a big team - including those in Liverpool and Clyde - and to start from scratch could be detrimental to the safety of seafarers.

He added: “We do already have problems with communication sometimes but we manage to overcome them because we know what we’re doing and where we’re going. I just wish we could do something more about this, we feel quite helpless because we know how much the service will be missed and how much it is used at present.” Gary has added his name to the petition and you can too by logging onto The petition needs 100,000 names before it can be debated in parliament and the cut-off date for adding your name is October 6th.

Another name added to the petition is that of Liverpool footballer Jamie Carragher, who has expressed his concern over the proposals.

He said: “To close such an important, and busy station, and move responsibility to Belfast, does not make sense to me. Lots of people rely on the service that Liverpool Coastguard provides, from general enquiries for weather and tide information, to the rescue of people in difficulties on the coast, and at sea.

To remove this service could only mean that people’s lives will be put at risk.”

• THE Portpatrick RNLI Lifeboat rescued a small fishing vessel with engine failure close to rocks last Wednesday.

Volunteer RNLI crew launched the Portpatrick Lifeboat at 1:15 pm on Wednesday to rescue a small fishing vessel with four persons aboard, which was anchored with engine failure at Tandoo Point near to Knockinaam .

The lifeboat arrived on scene at 1:25pm and the boat was taken under tow to Portpatrick harbour, where the crew of four were put safely ashore at 1:45pm. The lifeboat was refuelled and was ready for service at 1:55pm.