Coastguard operations centre unveiled

Brixham coastguard station Eight UK coastguard operations stations will close under a restructuring

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A new coastguard national maritime operations centre has been officially unveiled in Hampshire.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) facility will eventually handle emergency calls from across the UK and replace several coastguard stations.

The control room at Segensworth, near Fareham, was formally handed over by Shipping Minister Mike Penning.

Eight local coastguard stations across the UK have been cut as a result of a restructuring programme.

Critics of the government's reorganisation of the emergency response centres include South Dorset MP Richard Drax.

'Swamped by minutiae'

Mr Drax urged a rethink to the strategy in May following a search-and-rescue operation to find three missing Weymouth fisherman, whose vessel the Purbeck Isle sank off Portland Bill.

He said: "My fear with the opening of this new national centre is that vital, local, intimate knowledge of locations will be lost.

"I have said consistently that I believe the new centre will be swamped by minutiae, especially when there's a number of incidents going on along the south coast at once.

"The tragic death of three fishermen in Weymouth earlier this year reminded us all how vital a local search-and-rescue centre is when co-ordinating emergency responses."

In November, the government decided to proceed with a new coastguard structure following two separate consultations.

Its decision was to close eight coastguard emergency call centres around the UK, including Portland in Dorset.

In their place, the new national centre will sit at its heart alongside nine other 24-hour centres around the UK handling search-and-rescue operations.

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