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50% of Shifts "Understaffed" at Falmouth Coastguard

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7:01am 31st July 2013

They are the people supposed to keep us safe on Cornwall's coast - but Pirate FM has learnt Falmouth coastguard was understaffed for more than half of shifts last summer.

That meant there could be fewer than four people covering Dodman Point to Penzance to Bude.

Figures from the PCS union reveal between January 2012 and May 2013 Falmouth was among the five worst affected stations in the UK, with 370 (35.7%) of 1,034 watches staffed below risk assessed levels.

Between May and September last year, that jumped to 50% - 153 of 306 watches.

Tracy Hawk Treneer from the union at Falmouth Coastguard said: "Let's say you were going from Falmouth to Fowey and you wanted to log your passage plan with us - how many persons onboard, we would have to ditch it and say 'Sorry, we can't take your report. We don't have enough staff on to do the routine work.' If that vessel then got into trouble we would have absolutely no idea about that vessel.

"It is frustrating with the cuts that have been implemented and the cuts we know are coming it would just seem we are being asked to do more and more and more. Now they're asking us to have the type of day where you go home and you're like a rung out rag.

"You're just putting additional pressure on yourself and your colleagues. That's not what you want when you're on the end of a VHF radio and you're trying to pass your information to the operator to say, 'I'm taking water or I'm on fire or I've been in a collision.'"

A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: "The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) recently completed a recruitment campaign where 28 Watch Officer vacancies were filled at locations around the coast.
 
Currently, where a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) is experiencing reduced staffing levels, established 'pairing' arrangements are used. This means each MRCC can be connected to at least one other MRCC that will provide mutual support.

"Under the future structure, the introduction of the 'National Network' as part of the modernisation of HM Coastguard will enable the National Maritime Operations Centre and all other centres to coordinate any incident around the UK coast, enabling workload and incidents to be managed nationally rather than locally as at present."

7:01am 31st July 2013

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