Coastguard base closure may see staff leave service

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COASTGUARD staff based in Lee-on-the-Solent will retire when it shuts next month, a councillor has told The News.

The Maritime Coastguard Agency has announced it will be shutting the Solent centre in Lee-on-the-Solent by autumn next year as it sets up its National Maritime Operations Centre in Segensworth.

But Cllr John Beavis said some staff do not want to retrain for new systems at the new base and will instead now retire.

Cllr Beavis, member for Lee West at Gosport Borough Council, added there may be a chance for some to work at the new training facility at Daedalus.

He said: ‘Although they were being offered jobs in the new organisation, many of them did not want to learn all the new equipment that’s being used.

‘So possibly they’re going to retire when it closes down.

‘But there may well be the opportunity, because of their skills within the organisation, for them to move over and help out with the training.’

The 30 staff at Lee-on-the-Solent will have to reapply for their jobs.

As reported, the coastguard base will have a new training facility, which will be used nationally. And the search and rescue helicopter will stay put.

Cllr Beavis added local knowledge of the area may also be affected.

He said: ‘There is always a concern about local knowledge.

‘It is valuable, and it is one that is raised several times during the consultation period.’

Mike Allen is vice-chairman at Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service, a top-rated volunteer lifeboat service serving the area.

He said there may be a ‘transitional period’ when staff move to the new hub at Segensworth.

But he said: ‘Each desk in the centre will retain experience from the areas.

‘They won’t be able to look out the window and see the Solent but it’s a very small part of the area Solent Coastguard actually control.

‘There’s been a little bit of comment about local knowledge.

‘On the water it’s as much about the local knowledge retained by the lifeboat crews and cox as it is by the ops room.’

The new national network will be operational by 2015.

An MCA spokesman said the new jobs will have additional responsibilities and appropriate pay to match this.

He said: ‘Existing staff will have the opportunity to apply for the new coastguard positions once advertised.

‘They will be offered internally before going external. We don’t envisage compulsory redundancies at this stage.’

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