Union leaders warn over coastguard cuts

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The Independent Online

Government proposals to cut the number of round-the-clock coastguard centres could put lives at risk, a union leader told MPs today.

Under Government plans, the number of centres open 24 hours a day will be reduced from 18 to just three - at Aberdeen, in the Southampton/Portsmouth area and at Dover.

The proposals were attacked by Steve Quinn, president of the coastguard section of the Public and Commercial Services Union.

He told the House of Commons Transport Committee: "Cuts of this magnitude can only lead to putting people's lives at risk."

Under the Government proposals, in addition to the 24-hour centres, there will be five sub-centres open during daylight hours - at Swansea, Falmouth in Cornwall, Bridlington in East Yorkshire, at either Belfast or Liverpool and at either Stornoway or Shetland.

Mr Quinn told the committee he could see "no real benefit" in the cuts.

Allan Graveson, senior national secretary of the seafarers' union Nautilus, told the MPs: "Change to the system should not mean wholesale, or what appears to be random, cuts.

"New technology is no substitute for sufficiently-qualified personnel."

Steve Todd, national secretary of the RMT transport union, said the cuts were "far too much".

In written evidence to the committee, the Chamber of Shipping said the proposed closures "raised a number of concerns". It added that it did not believe the concepts of "peak and off-peak" hours were fully applicable to shipping.