Portland Coastguard campaign to get new Maritime Operations Centre

The Portland Coastguard helicopter assisting the RNLI at Boscombe beach, Bournemouth Portland Coastguard officer Sarah Callaby Brown believes the loss of local knowledge "will cost lives"

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Portland Coastguard has called for a new Maritime Operations Centre to be located in west Dorset.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced on Thursday that the Portland coastguard station would close, along with seven others around the UK.

He told MPs 10 24-hour centres would remain but eight would shut.

Sarah Callaby Brown, one of 25 officers based at Portland, said they had begun a campaign to persuade the government to site the new centre in Weymouth.

The plans to close Portland coastguard station caused anger among staff and the Conservative MP for South Dorset, Richard Drax, labelled it "madness".

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents coastguard workers, also criticised the closure plans, saying they would "result in safety being compromised".

Olympic Games

But Ms Callaby Brown told the BBC: "We're putting aside our disappointments and using all our energies in a very positive way.

"We're building a strong case for the proposed Maritime Operations Centre to be located in the Weymouth area.

"That will give us a geographic advantage, because under the new proposal we've got a coastguard station at Falmouth and one at Dover.

"The proposal is to have the Maritime Operations Centre in the Southampton/Portsmouth area - we say if it was located in the Weymouth area it's a more central location.

"But also of course Weymouth and Portland is on the international map because of the 2012 Olympics."

Weymouth and Portland are hosting the sailing events at next year's London Olympics.

Mr Hammond said the new Maritime Operations Centre would replace the existing station at Lee on Solent in Hampshire.

The other seven centres that will be shut are Clyde, Forth, Liverpool, Yarmouth, Brixham, Thames and Swansea.

Responding to the news on Thursday, Mr Drax said: "Without the local co-ordinator, inevitably response times will be delayed. In the water you have a matter of minutes to rescue people."

"It's madness - an insult to those professional people who take care of us."

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