Lives may be at risk at sea because the UK Coastguard is too slow to start rescue operations, it is claimed. The government must “swiftly change protocols” and review whether staffing levels at stations are “fit for purpose”, a petition is demanding.South West RNLI lifeboat volunteers have reportedly criticised delays.The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said its processes ensured the most effective deployment of search and rescue resources, which saves lives.Controversial changes came into force in 2014 when the number of 24-hour coastguard centres were cut from 19 to 10.
Dave Milford and Clive Palfrey, coxswain and helm of the Plymouth and Looe lifeboats, told The Times that the UK Coastguard sometimes “seems to be reluctant to launch a lifeboat.”The article referred to an incident in which they self-launched to a missing Plymouth fishing vessel, The Solstice, in September, when one man died and two more were rescued.Neither commented to the BBC on Monday.Terri Portmann, a marine consultant from Plymouth, said she had started a petition after hearing concern raised many times “within the industry and rescue services”.She said in the case of The Solstice it should have been obvious to the coastguard where the vessel was likely to be from the information provided.”It is just this type of lack of local knowledge that the industry warned would occur if centres were closed and vital experience was lost from the network as seasoned professionals were made redundant.”We need to see the government take swift action.”An MCA spokesperson said its operating procedures were “designed to develop an accurate situational picture to ensure the most effective deployment of search and rescue resources are sent to the right area”.The spokesperson added that “in numerous cases, this cuts vital minutes off the time taken to locate casualties, saving lives”. Both the RNLI and MCA said that rescue operations were “routinely reviewed” and said there was a formal process which allows any concerns raised by RNLI volunteer crew members to be discussed.
Source: Cornish BBC