North Down Ulster Unionist MLA, Leslie Cree, has said that the workforce at Bangor Coastguard station must not fall under safe levels again, after it emerged that the Belfast Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre -based at Bregenz House in Bangor- was understaffed in 56.7% of all shifts during 2013.
Mr Cree commented:
“A cross party lobby saved the Coastguard Station at Bregenz House in 2011, when the Government was consulting about rationalising the coastguard service around the coast of the United Kingdom. However, whilst the station was retained, it took on considerable new responsibilities; Bangor now has responsibility for a large swathe of the west coast of Scotland following the closure of Clyde in December 2012, in addition to its responsibility for the Northern Ireland coastline.
“It is very worrying that the Government were so slow to upscale the staffing levels in Bangor commensurate with the new responsibilities which were added over a year ago. Officially recruitment has now put staffing levels above complement, but this issue would need to be carefully monitored.
“I note with interest that MPs from West of Scotland constituencies recently met the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond MP at Westminster about service and staffing levels at the Maritime Coastguard Agency. As this is a non-devolved matter I would call on our Westminster MPs to show the same level of diligence. The retention of the facility at Bangor was only half the battle, keeping it fully resourced to meet its wider responsibilities is equally important. Seafarers right around the Northern Ireland coast and South West Scotland need to be reassured that safety arrangements are there to protect them in case of an emergency.”