Donald Crichton Western Isles Labour candidate for Holyrood has backed the call for the Stornoway Coastguard station to be developed into the Marine Operations Centre rather than Aberdeen as outlined in the MCA consultation document for the reduction in stations across the UK.
The suggestion for turning the Stornoway station into the Marine Operations Centre was put forward by Harbour Master Captain Torquil Macleod at the recent MCA public consultation meeting in Stornoway.
Mr Crichton said: “Captain Macleod made a sensible and significant suggestion and the MCA would do well to go away and consider his proposal. As he said that instead of downgrading the Stornoway station it should be developed into the Marine Operations Centre and it would be better placed to secure the north and western seaboard than Aberdeen.” Captain Macleod pointed out that Aberdeen already has a robust and modern telecommunications network in place in the offshore industry, which could and does support the coordination of Marine Incidents. Ships involved in the offshore sector, from Shetland to Dover, are equipped with modern communications, which can be utilised as a relay station in maritime distress situations. Aberdeen Coastguard is able to deploy all such vessels in the event of a Marine emergency, as well as the immediate availability of Helicopters. He added that the East coast can get back-up from the Norway, Denmark, German and Dutch counterparts.
On the West coast, the development of Stornoway to full Marine Operations Centre would be a key strategic decision, given its excellent location on the West coast, and with the visibility into the Atlantic. Generally vessels operating on the West Coast (one of the busiest areas in Europe for Leisure Craft) have the bare minimum in terms of equipment and is always susceptible to malfunction, given its operation in a harsh marine environment.
He also said that the remote areas around Scotland’s West Coast, where many of these ships operate, are not even able to provide robust mobile phone coverage. The area needs people on the ground, who are able to compensate for the telecoms vacuum that exists in large areas of the west coast.
At the same meeting Donald Crichton called for the consultation process to be suspended until the Transport Select Committee of the House of Commons had conducted its inquiry into the proposals and reported back.
He said: “ The Commons Transport Select Committee are conducting an inquiry because they have serious concerns about these proposals not least the lack of a robust risk assessment. The Government should suspend the consultation process until the Committee has reported back. This will provide the time and space for the Government to think again and consider more sensible ideas like the one put forward by Captain Macleod.”