A COASTGUARD operations centre is beginning its work to look after sailors around the country.
The new National Maritime Operations Centre (NMOC) will take over regional coastguard stations in a bid to provide a better support network for rescues at sea.
Yesterday it started a 14-month transitional period in which it will take on work from the existing centres.
By the end of this week, it will have replaced Solent Coastguard, which it has been shadowing as part of the transfer process. And by the end of next year, it will have replaced 18 centres around the UK, with 10 others staying open as part of a network.
The new centre, at Kites Croft, in Titchfield, has state-of-the-art technology and, when complete, will have 96 operators based there.
Matt West, maritime operations controller, was based at Solent Coastguard until March when he transferred. He said the move will provide more staff and more resources to help with rescues.
‘This move is really positive because there will be more resources than there were at Solent,’ he said.
‘We could have had up to four people on-call but if it was particularly busy, for example with the Round the Island race, there wasn’t extra help.
‘But now if there is an influx of calls, other operators will be there to take the call and ensure help is given.’
There have been concerns that the move to a central hub would make people in need of rescue more vulnerable because they would not necessarily be talking to a local operator.
But the NMOC has said there will be no reduction in resources available.
Mr West added: ‘If an operator is covering the Solent area, they wouldn’t answer a call that came from the north.
‘So the operators will still be working within regions.’
But for Dennis O’Connor, national campaign co-ordinator at Coastguard SOS, the move is wrong.
He said: ‘The new centre won’t have the local knowledge that the regional stations have.
‘In theory, having extra operators to help would work but then it leaves that region vulnerable as they have less people. Also, they might not have knowledge of that area.
He added: ‘They have new technology but it isn’t good enough. It is only as good as the last update.’