Coastguard cuts challenged by MP who lost her husband

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She would have been better to question why the coastguard were so ineffective as to not check on the internet as her son had done. Someone ought to be fired at HMCG. Nothing to do with ministers
 

snowleopard

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It seems a little confused as, though she is a Cornish MP, the boat was operating out of Looe which is in Brixham's area so talk about closures of CG stations[sic] in Cornwall isn't relevant.
 

Beadle

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I don't really follow the logic that says we should not make changes to the Coastguard structure because their AIS doesn't work - or their training does not teach them to use it properly.

Sadly the life was lost even with the local coastguard station open

The article speaking of a 10ft trawler rather undermine its credibility.
 

jimi

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It seems a little confused as, though she is a Cornish MP, the boat was operating out of Looe which is in Brixham's area so talk about closures of CG stations[sic] in Cornwall isn't relevant.


I thought the actual article sounded a bit mixed up, but IMHO her letter is sound.


From: Sheryll Murray M.P.

To: Mike Penning MP
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DR

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Dear Mike,

It was a real surprise to hear you speaking to Radio Cornwall’s James Churchfield this morning about your visit to Falmouth Coastguard Station. I hope that you found the visit useful.

I appreciate that you have inherited the current proposals from the previous Government and I felt it both appropriate and essential to write to you to highlight some of the issues that I have personally experienced regarding the local coastguard service both in Looe through the voluntary personnel and also the Brixham Coastguard Station.

As you are already aware, I have always had real concerns about the proposed changes to the coastguard stations.

However, after the events on 24 March 2011, I feel it is essential that I make you aware of additional information.

I am copying this to the Prime Minister, as he has expressed an interest in this matter.

I completely agree with you that coastguard electronic systems need updating. However, I am surprised that you refer to this as a communication system.

As you are no doubt aware, the major advance in marine technology in recent time is AIS (automatic identification system).

My husband’s vessel, MFV Our Boy Andrew, was fitted with a transmitter, although this was not a compulsory requirement for a vessel of this size. At present the regulations require vessels over 300 GT or passenger vessels to be fitted with this equipment. MFV Our Boy Andrew was approx 17 GT. The cost of a transmitter similar to that fitted is between £400 and £500.

On the night that my husband’s vessel was reported missing, I received a call from the local volunteer coastguard in Looe informing me that his vessel was overdue and they had started a search. When I informed them that an AIS transmitter was fitted to the vessel, I was told it was either not working or has been turned off. The Coastguard equipment could not pick up a signal. My son, who had fitted the transmitter located the vessel within minutes using the ordinary commercial website and informed the coastguard of its location. MFV Our Boy Andrew was also located by two merchant ships on their own tracking system.

I would ask you to prioritise the upgrading of the marine tracking equipment at coastguard stations, before looking at any communication systems or indeed before closing any local stations. At present, I have not heard any talk whatsoever about the ability of a single coastguard station based in Southampton being able to better locate a vessel in distress and all the talk has been about a National Communication System. It would appear that the present coastguard AIS system is flawed and must be upgraded and tested for reliability over a reasonable a period of time before any closures take place.

For your information, the vessel was running on auto pilot because the accident happened whilst hauling the gear. Had she not been located, she would have continued on a course that would have taken her way out into the Atlantic Ocean and may never have been found. This would have left me in a situation where I would not have been able to lay my husband to rest and been left in limbo, like so many other fisherman’s wives, for 7 years.

I would also ask that you consider, as a matter of urgency, the safety implications for any vessel that does has no GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress Safety System) equipment on board such as Kayaks, Dinghies, and other leisure craft or indeed beach users.

The local knowledge at local coastguard stations, particularly where yachts in transit radio an ETA for their destination port and are subsequently overdue is essential. I would like to know what level of cover would be provided for this scenario and what process would be put in place at a single station based in Southampton.

I would like to praise the volunteer coastguards in Looe and also the staff at Brixham coastguards that evening for the way in which they communicated with me. I do wonder how this would have been handled by a single, busy coordination centre.

I have noted that you have used the example of the way other emergency services operate on a number of occasions and in particular the fact that you were a fireman yourself. You compare the land based fire or ambulance service, both operated at a local level to the coastguard service. I agree that services should be operated at a local level and fail understand why you are proposing to bring in National response centres for the coastguards. Lessons can be learned from the fact that the £multi million proposal to replace local fire centres with a regional centre was abandoned at the end of last year. I would ask if you consider it safe to use a single Air Traffic Control Centre to cover every airport in the country rather than one based at each airport because that is a far better comparison.

I would urge you to abandon this inherited, ill thought out consultation immediately and if necessary start your own investigations from scratch, listening to the local coastguards on the ground.

Furthermore, I was surprised to hear you state that coastguards support your proposals. Any that I have spoken to, many who attended my husband’s funeral on Friday are horrified at the proposals and the implications.

With best wishes

Sheryll Murray MP

Cc Rt Hon David Cameron MP, the Prime Minister

____
 

Searush

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I don't really follow the logic that says we should not make changes to the Coastguard structure because their AIS doesn't work - or their training does not teach them to use it properly.

Sadly the life was lost even with the local coastguard station open

The article speaking of a 10ft trawler rather undermine its credibility.

They are suggesting that they don't need coastguards because AIS is better. :mad:

Do you have an AIS transmitter on your boat? Most smaller leisure craft & day boats do not. The "reorganisation" is very much biased towards commercial shipping rather than leisure craft. We are likely to be very much more at risk after reorg.

I suspect it was a 10m boat, slip ups & typos like that are common - even on this erudite forum.
 

Beadle

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The point is the present equipment did not pick up the AIS message.

I cannot see that the location of the coastguard station is the significant issue in this tragedy.

It is a systems failure, and a significant part of the present proposal is an upgrade in systems.

As to leisure craft not having AIS transmitters I agree, but again I do not see that the location of coastguard station is relevant. I sail from the river Tyne our "local" Coastguard station is at Bridlington - take a look at the map.

We rely on VHF radio as the primary distress system. The existing technology allows this to work, and that too will be improved.

There is no evidence to show that I am at greater risk than a boat sailing out of Bridlington.

The point is that the coastguard is NOT a search and rescue organisation. It is a communication and control organisation, and that does not mean having people looking through a telescope every 5 miles around the coast. It means being an effective part of an integrated emergency management system which means having the systems and training and practice in doing that - irrespective of geography.

It also means finding out why that AIS signal was not picked up and acted upon, and then taking action - whether it be faulty or inadequate equipment, error on the part of the user or any other cause, and then taking action to ensure it cannot recur. Again not a geographical issue, an issue of effective management.
 
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It is a systems failure, and a significant part of the present proposal is an upgrade in systems.

Not really. Its a beurocratic operative failure. Whatever happened to the idea of staff using their initiative and logging on to the many AIS sites on the www? When you have an emergency you dont just stick to the rule book. You do whats necessary.

In any event there is a big difference between HMCG and the fire brigade etc. For the most part HMCG are an office tasking other organisations to do the work. Nobody has suggested centralising the RNLI and its they who need local knowledge. Is they who need AIS to find a body
 

snowleopard

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The fact is that nothing the CG could have done would have prevented the death. That was down to an accident with a power windlass exacerbated by the guy being alone on the boat. Not was the physical location of the CG officers anything to do with the problem.
 

Beadle

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"Not really. Its a beurocratic operative failure. Whatever happened to the idea of staff using their initiative and logging on to the many AIS sites on the www? When you have an emergency you dont just stick to the rule book. You do whats necessary."

I have much sympathy with this view, but I must make the point that this is a system, and such systems should not rely on people using initiative. The system should produce the right result by following a set process, and for reasons we do not know, on this occasion the system tragically failed.

Not refering to your post at all, but I think I must add that to me its a bit raw of some people seeking to take advantage of someones death to make a political point
 
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