I recently visited Swansea Coastguard station at Mumbles together with Swansea MPs. Martin Caton, Sian James and Geraint Davies. We had requested the visit and a meeting with a senior officer, because we are very concerned at plans to reduce the UK’s couple of dozen Coastguard Stations down to two main centres, one near Southampton and one in the north of Scotland, and five “satellite” centres including Swansea. As well as covering South-East Wales and North Devon, Swansea currently covers the area up to Carmarthen Bay, and Milford Haven takes over from there. The officer confirmed there are plans to reduce Swansea’s opening times to daylight hours only and to close down Milford Haven Coastguard Station altogether, which, between the two means losing a considerable amount of local expertise, as staff numbers are slashed from 47 to 10, with night-time cover being co-ordinated from Southampton. But let’s remember disaster can strike at any time, tide times don’t fit in with daylight hours, even the most experienced fishermen can need help, and it was night-time when to the oil tanker the Sea Empress got into difficulty.
Add to this the worry about the loss of local knowledge and the likely confusion over place names, not just understanding Welsh names, but all those local names which help pinpoint a location. We have a priceless team of volunteer coastguards who cover the whole coastline out on the ground, but will a distant control centre get the correct message to them as clearly and quickly? With the continuing increase in tourism and leisure activities, Swansea has been getting busier and busier. Safety should not be compromised. I would encourage anyone who visits the beach to respond to the consultation by 24th March at http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/2010