Wearside welcomes salvation of lifesaving HQ

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SAILORS and fishermen today welcomed the news that a coastguard centre that serves Wearside and East Durham will remain open around-the-clock.

Eight co-ordination centres will be closed nationwide, with a loss of 159 jobs, but the Government has confirmed the Humber Coastguard Centre will not be affected.

It was initially feared the base in Bridlington – which oversees rescues along the east coast, from the Wash to the Scottish border –. would operate a reduced service, with the closest 24-hour operational centre at Aberdeen.

Today, sailing enthusiasts, fishermen, councillors and rescue groups welcomed the ministers’ re-think.

Alan Dixon, commodore at Sunderland Yacht Club, in Roker, said: “It is a big relief. We have great confidence in the coastguard. They do a fantastic job.”

Tommy Smith, a fisherman from Easington Colliery, said: “This is great news. The coastguard provides a vital service, not just with call-outs but also providing up-to-date weather information and forecasts over the radio.”

Labour councillor Tom Martin, whose Hendon constituency has seen a series of accidents and tragedies on its coast in recent years, said the announcement was “excellent news”.

Coun Martin, an ex-member of the Royal Navy Auxiliary Service, said: “There was a lot of concern that any cuts to the coastguard in the area could affect public safety.

“We were worried that there could be a delay in the emergency services dealing with calls if there was a change to operational times.

“Thankfully, that hasn’t happened, which is excellent news.”

The RNLI, which was called out more than 100 times last year on Wearside, stressed the importance of the coastguard.

“The RNLI works very closely with HM Coastguard and we will continue to do so under the revised coastguard structure, which will be put into place over the next few years,” said a spokeswoman.

“We contributed to the consultation process and have confidence in the assurances given by our coastguard colleagues that the new structure will provide our lifeboat crews with the information they need to go on saving lives at sea as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“We can assure sea users and the public whose generosity we depend upon that, despite the changes, it will be operations as usual for the RNLI’s volunteer crews, who will continue to launch our lifeboats wherever and whenever needed to save lives at sea.”